LAKELAND | As sixth-grader Audrey Link sat at an art table, her teacher had some encouraging praise about her artwork.
“There were a lot of comments about your use of the color black,” said Katie Senkarik, art teacher at Resurrection School in Lakeland. “That says a lot. It is really easy to get carried away with black.”
Audrey appreciated the compliment, especially the source. She described her teacher as strict, but “in the best way possible.”
“She wants us to learn and do techniques correctly,” said the 12-year-old budding artist. “We’ve learned about the principles of design, elements of art, different ways and techniques in painting. We are expected to (complete assignments) as we are asked, but she gives us room to explore our own creativity.”
Art is an important aspect of Audrey’s life. In April 2017, she gained national recognition when she participated in a drawing contest from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to spotlight finding missing children. Audrey’s poster showed parents holding hands with an invisible child. The missing child is then revealed in the shadows.
When creating the art, Audrey originally had the idea of showing reflections in a body of water. But that idea merged into working with shadows as a metaphor for missing children. FDLE officials sent her design to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“It’s a memory from the parents’ hearts,” she explained. That poster has since been turned into billboards across Florida.
“When Audrey first handed me her poster for the contest, it truly made me gasp,” said teacher Katrena Skiles. “The art, of course, is beautiful, but the message within the picture is chilling.”
Thanks to the poster, Audrey and her family traveled to Washington, D.C., last May and also visited Tallahassee in December in honor of Florida’s Missing Children’s Day. Audrey said she felt moved when families of missing children were handed roses — white roses for children who were found dead, yellow roses for those who are still missing. Audrey’s father, Will, was also affected deeply.
“As a parent, it is amazing to watch your child use her talents to serve a vulnerable segment of our world,” he said. “Not many children her age are given a chance to apply their Catholic faith in the real world in such a meaningful way.”
Audrey’s parents are confident the Catholic school system is playing an instrumental role in her maturing into a well-rounded and confident young adult. Audrey, who has attended Catholic school since kindergarten, agrees that Catholic school is a good fit for her. When asked if she feels challenged by the curriculum, Audrey blew out her breath and said, “Oh yeah,” adding she works very hard to garner A’s on her report card.
“The teachers here are always here to help us,” Audrey said. “They go the extra mile so we can push ourselves farther and farther.”
Along with the academics, Audrey is grateful Resurrection has a concentration for the arts and helps her flex her creative skills. She recently won an essay contest from the Daughters of the American Revolution. The essay topic: the outcomes of World War I. Deborah Schwope, Resurrection principal, excitedly recounted Audrey’s win because she enjoys sharing the preteen’s accomplishments.
“Audrey is a sixth-grade student who applies her faith to make an impact on the world,” she said.
Having the opportunity to share, learn and speak about her faith is a major reason Audrey said she loved her school. While she might have similar academic experiences at a public school or another private school, Audrey said she loves being able to talk about things that really matter, such as God, Jesus, and the true meaning of holidays like Christmas and Easter.
“A Catholic school is different from other schools because here we talk about more and expand the reasons of why God made us, and how God made everything and has a plan and a vocation for everyone,” she said. “I don’t know what my vocation is, but I’m glad I can think about that while I’m at school.”