Bennion Jr. High 7th-grader Joshua Johnson has been selected to receive the National Award of Outstanding Interpretation in the National PTA’s Reflection program. Joshua is one of only seven students nationwide to receive the award. Each year more than 300,000 students in pre-K through 12th grade participate in the Reflections program by submitting works of visual, performing and literary art based on a national theme. Joshua's award winning poem is below.
“We applaud all of the students who participated in the Reflections program this school year, and we are thrilled to recognize the winners for their talents and creativity,” said National PTA president Leslie Boggs.
After winning at the school, regional and state levels, Joshua’s piece was considered by judges at the national level before being named one the overall awardees.
The Voice in My Head
By Joshua Johnson
My ears perk with pensiveness as my parents wrangle about pandemics.
My eyes ache from superfluous screen time spent salvaging my academics.
This perpetuator of panic shut down my school, my church, and my teams.
It shrank my social circles and attacked my sleep with unsettled dreams.
Being social feels so distant as we zoom around to connect.
While we mask our smileless faces and our true feelings reject.
The voices around me shout, “It doesn’t matter! Give up. You’re alone!”
But the voice in my head softly replies, “Keep going. Keep working. Persistence is brilliant.”
It whispers, “I matter because I am resilient.”
Flash forward a fortnight to foundations shaking.
Picture frames falling and ceiling lights quaking.
Panicked parents call my name as I dive under the table.
5.7 on the Richter scale. My nerves are rattled, my logic disabled.
My legs are an unsteady sailor stepping off from the sea.
My knees tremble from rippling aftershocks and I wonder when my limbs will be free.
The voices around me yell in my ear, “Be anxious. Be alarmed. Be filled with fear.”
But the voice in my head firmly declares, “Get up! Get moving. Get out from down there.”
It whispers, “I matter because I am courageous.”
My tear ducts burning, my nostrils assailed.
Smokey tendrils slither where dirt trenches have failed.
Across the mountainous skyline orange dangers appear,
Leaping and hurling, consuming all that is near.
Ashy remnant of California and Colorado waft a warning, hissing “Beware,”
While merging with the molecules of our own fiery despair.
The voices around me holler “Why should you care? It isn’t your home that floats in the air!”
But the voice in my head is quick to respond, “Empathy and concern are how I reach higher.”
It whispers, “I matter because my choices inspire.”
Injustices exposed and dark narratives now spoken.
Shining light on an imperfect union where liberty is broken.
Cities rally together proclaiming, “Enough is enough!”
Peaceful protests permeate into ravenous riots, so rough.
While messages are spray painted and buildings are burned.
Tear gas is deployed and police cars overturned.
The voices around me scream “Be divided. Be vicious. Be cruel.”
But the voice in my head rapidly refutes, “Be united. Show kindness in all that you do.”
It whispers, “I matter because I respect you.”
Jobs dissolve, like sidewalk chalk in a summertime rainstorm, creating blurry pictures of the future that lies ahead.
A deluge of bills and drought of paychecks cause parents to worry about keeping kids fed.
Stock prices decline, releasing a downspout of empty grocery shelves and pantry cupboards.
My palms go clammy and my heart aches from the things I’ve discovered.
Retirements, savins, and homes evaporate away, while people pile up in unemployment lines.
Street corners are claimed by calloused hands holding faded cardboard signs.
The voices around me spout, “Why bother? Why try? It is pointless anyway!”
But the voice in my head boldly rebuts “I cannot, I will not, I won’t quit today!”
It whispers, “I matter because I have hope.”
Through sadness and sickness, disease and dying.
Through anguish and anger, chaos and crying.
I focus on forward. I positively push on.
I know better days are coming, all these things will be gone.
The stronger the wind, the more resilient the tree.
This is the person I choose to be.
I know this because of the voice in my head.