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St. Pius student is second in her family to earn state art award


Sallie Fish, a seventh-grade student at St. Pius X School in Toledo, displays a copy of her winning entry in a statewide contest sponsored by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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St. Pius X School seventh-grader Sallie Fish has grown up surrounded by art.

With a mother who is a graphic designer and an older sister who also has the artistic bug, the 13-year-old student said she initially picked up many of her artistic talents from simply watching her mother create artwork.

Those talents were noticed by judges in the 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., writing and multimedia contest in which she was awarded first place for her art entry for her grade.

Sponsored by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the contest attracted nearly 1,000 entries from across the state, with only one winner being selected in each grade level.

The contest encourages students in grades 6-12 to reflect on Dr. King’s impact during the civil rights movement.

The 2013 theme was “The Drum Major Instinct,” which refers to a sermon Dr. King gave in 1968. Using writing, drawing, or multimedia projects, students were asked to describe how they would serve as “drum majors” for peace, justice, and righteousness in their communities.

RELATED CONTENT: Sallie Fish's drawing

Sallie used pencil for her drawing, depicting three faces of Dr. King and silhouettes of drum majors against the brightly colored words peace, justice, and righteousness.

Sallie is the second member of her family to receive the award. Her older sister, Emma Fish, won when she was in the eighth grade at St. Pius X last year. Emma now attends the Toledo School for the Arts.

The girls’ mother, Libbey Koppinger, said her daughters have been creating art since they were little.

“It’s definitely in our blood, for sure. They’re both really artistic. They both draw about two or three hours a day. It’s truly something that they enjoy,” she said. “From very early on, they communicated through drawings.”

St. Pius X School language arts teacher Beth Patrilla, who teaches seventh and eighth grade, said she has watched the sisters submit their contest entries for two years.

She said entering the contest has helped her classroom better implement new common-core standards for English, language arts, and math, because of the versatility of the entry requirements.

“They could either write something, they could draw, or they could come up with a multimedia project,” Mrs. Patrilla said. “That is a perfect way to incorporate common core. You’re giving students the opportunity to pick their comfort zones.”

Twenty-two seventh grade students from St. Pius entered this year’s contest.

Mrs. Patrilla said she wasn’t shocked that the sisters have won the award, calling it “phenomenal.”

“I recognize that they have just extreme talent and I wanted to give them the opportunity to do something with their talent. I'm so happy for those girls. They're so gifted in writing and their artwork.”

Sallie's reaction was one of elated surprise.

“I was hoping that I would get it. I kind of like jumped up and down. I was really happy and then I went and called my mom,” she said.

Sallie said she credits her mothert with helping her decide which entry to submit.

“I pretty much decided what I was going to do,” she said. “My mom helped me with deciding what I wanted. I had three rough copies that I wasn’t sure about.”

Ms. Koppinger said Sallie has always drawn pictures that promoted happiness and peace.

“She's always been a very sunshine-y little kid,” she said.

Today, Sallie's family and Mrs. Patrilla will travel to Columbus, where she will accept the award.

She will receive a certificate for her achievement, and her drawing will be displayed in the Ohio Statehouse for the remainder of the year.

“I could not be prouder of them. It’s pretty rare from what I understand [for both daughters to win]. I feel really blessed and thankful and really proud of them,” Ms. Koppinger said.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: or 419-724-6522.

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