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PA Cyber fifth-grader wins top prize in state attorney general’s drug-free poster contest

Dec 20, 2016

First Deputy Attorney General Robert A. Mulle presents Rhiannon with a certificate at the award ceremony in Harrisburg..

PA Cyber fifth-grader Rhiannon Costanzo is the grand prize winner of the 20th annual state Attorney General's office Drug-Free Calendar Contest for her poster "Drug Free Dreamer."

Rhiannon, 10, of Preston Park, was one of 13 winners who were congratulated Dec. 19 during a luncheon and award ceremony at the attorney general's Strawberry Square office in Harrisburg.

The contest invited fifth-graders from across the commonwealth to create original artwork illustrating a drug-free message of their choice.

Rhiannon's poster, "Drug Free Dreamer," is featured on the cover of the 2017 calendar, which is circulated throughout the state in an effort to educate the public about the dangers of drug use.

The other 12 drawings each represent one month during the year.

"I was shocked," Rhiannon said, upon learning that she had won. "It was really amazing."

When Amy Zachewicz, PA Cyber's fine arts supervisor, invited all fifth-graders to submit artwork, Rhiannon and her mom began brainstorming.

Rhiannon enjoys drawing and loves horses, so she began thinking about drawing them.

Her mother, Sarah Costanzo, said her daughter is also a dreamer and suggested she fit that in. Rhiannon decided to draw a Pegasus lifting off the ground in a whimsical swirl of colors.

"I really wanted to put a horse in there because I really like horses," Rhiannon said. "We were thinking about titles and I really liked drug free dreamer a lot."

Rhiannon 's artwork qualified in the first round of judging at PA Cyber and was one of three entries sent to the attorney general's office for the second round.

A total of 858 student entries were received from 208 schools in 47 counties across the state, according to the state attorney general's office. Winning artwork was selected based on the artists' creativity and ability to illustrate and convey a drug-free message.

"This contest creates an opportunity for the Office of Attorney General to connect with students and get them thinking about the dangers of drugs," Attorney General Bruce R. Beemer said in a news release. "We are extremely pleased that so many students took the time to help us share this important message."

Staff from the office discussed the dangers of drugs with the contest winners and their families. Students also received a choice of a prize and a certificate. Rhiannon chose a GoPro camera to photograph her many adventures.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Sarah Costanzo said. "I told her, 'you did a good job.' It was creative, it was positive and it paid off."

As the grand prize winner, Rhiannon received a $100 prize that she plans to donate this week to her local animal shelter.

Her mother said Rhiannon loves animals and hopes to become a veterinarian someday. She has taken in rabbits and nursed them back to health. She also adopted a feral cat named Penelope that is now friendly.

"She just loves animals. She loves to draw, she loves horses. She wants a pony. She's a very good little girl, sweet and sensitive," her mom said.

In addition to drawing and animals, Rhiannon also enjoys singing.

She is the daughter of Chris and Sarah Costanzo. Rhiannon's siblings, Morgana, 14, a ninth-grader, and Payden, 8, a third-grader, also attend PA Cyber.

Thirteen fifth-graders were named winners of the 20th annual state Attorney General's office Drug-Free Calendar Contest.

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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.