It was just an ordinary school day at Clara Barton Elementary. My fourth-grade classmates and I had just finished eating lunch at the cafeteria and were returning to our classroom. It was near the end of the school day and I couldn’t wait to get home and watch the latest episode of Pokémon. There was nothing that could possibly ruin that day or so I thought…
Mrs. V, my social studies teacher, was getting ready to start her lesson, when all of a sudden, the classroom phone rang. Mrs. V picked up the phone. “You want to see Michael Tran?” Mrs. V blurted out. Once I heard my name, I turned my attention towards her and gulped. She told me to report to the principal’s office immediately. As I got up and walked away from my desk at a leisurely pace, my classmates directed their attention to me and they all had a worried look on their faces as if I was an innocent man walking into death row.
After leaving the classroom, I thought to myself “why did I get sent to the principal’s office?” As I got to the end of the hallway, I approached the door with a “PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE” sign plastered on it. All of the letters were capitalized and in a sans serif font, possibly Arial, or Helvetica maybe? To this day, I still have some difficulty distinguishing those two fonts. Besides, Mrs. V had always used Comic Sans as her go-to font for her lessons, but I digress. I proceeded to open the door and I had no idea of what would have happened next.
“Congratulations Michael!” said Dr. Lee, the principal. I was puzzled and said, “Uhh, thanks?” Dr. Lee then proceeded to inform me that I had won the grand prize for the national “Playing it Safe” poster design contest held by Kids Foot Locker. It was a contest where a student had to design a poster that would warn children about the dangers of weapons. I was told that my poster had a strong visual message that presented knives as sharp and menacing objects. In addition, it had a memorable text on it, “Don’t play with a knife or you could lose a life.” I was copywriting before I even knew what copywriting was. The grand prize winner of the contest would have the entire school’s staff and students receive a free pair of Reebok Classics sneakers.
Hearing this news filled me with joy and relief. I was finally able to let out a sigh of relief because I thought I got into some kind of trouble. After I left the principal’s office and headed back to my classroom, Mrs. V asked me out of concern, “Is everything okay, Michael?” The whole class gazed at me and awaited my response. “I-I won the art safety contest” I stuttered. Then, all of my classmates had a thrilling look on their faces. Soon, the sounds of applause circulated around the room. It felt like I was inducted into the baseball hall of fame. The next day, Dr. Lee made an announcement on the loudspeaker, spreading the news to the entire school that everyone would receive a free pair of sneakers compliments of Michael Tran and a ceremony will be held at a future date.
On the day of the ceremony, not only did I hear “Congratulations” from my fellow classmates, but I also received them from complete strangers. Most notably, one student was extremely appreciative and profusely thanked me because he was in dire need of new sneakers since they were completely worn out. I could not have fathomed the many lives I had affected that day, and I recall on this day whenever I begin to doubt myself and it reinvigorates me each time. I consider it my infinitely deep pool of inspiration of becoming a successful visual artist and designer.
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