Big Ten Poster Step Ahead Academy

WINNING ENTRY — Students from Step Ahead Academy entered this poster in the Big Ten Championship Poster Contest and won. Their award included tickets to the Big Ten Championship on Dec. 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium, free entry into the Fun Zone, and much more. Below, students worked together to create the poster.

When the Big Ten Championship Game kicked off on Dec. 1 inside Lucas Oil Stadium, a group of students from Step Ahead Academy — along with their family and several teachers — were in the stands.

Big Ten Poster Contest

Their seats, along with a few other perks, were part of an award package for winning the Big Ten Championship Poster Contest — besting all other schools that participated.

The 7-foot-long by 5-foot-tall artwork on white vinyl was created by about 30 students in Nicole Sarkas’ art class at Step Ahead Academy, an IPS alternative program for students who have been held back but are working toward catching up academically and returning to their home school.

Using poster paint, permanent markers and glitter as a finishing touch, their work was on display inside the Fun Zone at Lucas Oil Stadium for all to see during game weekend.

Students worked on the poster at random times inside Sarkas’ art class. A group of students worked together during their lunch break, while certain classes — based on their strengths — had specific tasks. Some were responsible for drawing the background, others worked on the football and other elements of the poster’s design.

Big Life was the theme of this year’s contest. To help students understand what that means, Sarkas asked them to do a written reflection of what “big life” means to them and to describe the tools they would need to achieve the big life they dream about.

For some, that big life includes becoming a nurse practitioner, a professional athlete or even working in the Information Technology (IT) field.

“(That discussion and written reflection) is where we got the education theme and the money theme, and it goes along with the football theme, because a lot of the kids want to be professional football players,” said Sarkas about the images her students used to create the poster.

“We turned it into a discussion about goals and how to accomplish our goals, and how school or football can help us achieve our goals,” she added. “And that gave them the momentum to start drawing their ideas.”

Once the banner was complete, the students actually took the theme and flipped it around to show that — through their eyes — life is big.

“To these kids, life is really big,” said Sarkas. “There’s so much going on in the media and culturally and they’re always being bombarded by these challenges, so to take that simple phrase … they are making such a statement about what they experience every day by saying life is big, because that’s really true for them.”

Sarkas is proud of the work her students put into creating their poster. She’s also happy about the overall experience.

“In the beginning, the win didn’t really sink in for them but they got more excited when they realized just how big the Big Ten Championship is,” said Sarkas. “The really got excited when they found out they were going to be on TV because the game is televised.”

As part of their win, students and their families were awarded tickets to the Fun Zone and the Big Ten game. They were also recognized on the field of the Lucas Oil Stadium for a pregame photo and their images were displayed on the big screen at the game.

According to Sarkas, their winning work of art is now property of the Big Ten Conference.