by Spencer Schultz
Assistant Editor of Production
Thousands of students from schools across the Northeast submitted pieces of writing to the 2016 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Out of the many pieces submitted, the works of nine Jamesville-DeWitt High School students were selected to be featured in this year’s awards.
All grades of J-DHS were represented at the awards this year. Freshman Tyson Echols and Sofia Liaw, sophomores Michale Schueler and Celia Reistrom, junior Melissa Gao, and seniors Issy Hanick-Herman, Amanda Henderson, and Jack Radford were each honored with different levels of awards.
Many students that submit their work to the show are often part of J-DHS’s Creative Writing course. However, some students, like Schueler, worked on their writing outside of school.
While other students were taking a break from school work, Schueler spent a large part of her summer writing pieces for this year’s awards, after winning a Gold and Silver Key at Scholastic last year. Schueler’s hard work payed off, as all four of her submitted works earned recognition at the show, more than any other J-D student.
After hearing of her Gold Key for her personal essay, Silver Keys for flash fiction and poetry, and Honorable Mention for a poem, Schueler was overcome with emotion. “I entered last year, but I never expected in a million years for all four of my pieces to get in,” says Schueler. Still, Schueler didn’t submit her work just for the awards. “I love to write, and I think it’s important to put my work out there,” she says. Schueler hopes to continue her writing into adulthood and possibly pursue a career as an author. Currently, she’s getting a jumpstart on that, as she had already started writing a novel about the Jewish holiday Purim.
Unlike Schueler, some students submitted their work on a whim. Echols stumbled upon the Creative Writing elective to fill a missing block in his schedule. Little did he know that this elective would lead him to submitting his works into Scholastic. Based on a prompt creative writing teacher Matthew Phillips gave in class, Echols got the idea to write a short story about a boy dealing with the effects of cancer. “Mr Phillips read it, and he thought that it deserved to be entered into Scholastic,” says Echols, who recieved an Honorable Mention.
Reistrom has a similar story. Though she worked on her writing over the summer, she never thought to submit it into Scholastic. “It was actually Michaele who told me I shouldn’t keep my work to myself, and she encouraged me to put it out there,” says Reistrom. She submitted two of her poems into the show at the last minute, and both were awareded Silver Keys.
Gao, after taking Creative Writing her freshman year, fell in love with it, and began writing in her free time. Gao entered a poem hoping that it would get some type of award. “When I entered it, I thought to myself, ‘If I get an honorable mention, I’ll be really proud,” says Gao. She ended up recieving a Gold Key for her first submission. Gao says her poem, titled “Soft,” is about “a relationship between an adult man and woman,” but she “doesn’t want to give away the ending.”
Though both are under the umbrella of Scholastic, the submission process for the writing awards is much different than that of the art awards. Students submit individually to the writing awards, while art students enter their work under their art teacher. In the Central New York Region, there is a group of schools that work together to create an exhibit of young artist’s work, says Mr. Phillips. However, there is no such thing for the writing awards, meaning that students must submit to a much larger area, including many states from the Northeast region which includes eight states: Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. The awards also accept submissions from many private schools and magnet schools for the arts.
“I think the fact that work is individually submitted is one reason why not as many J-D students submit to the writing awards as the art awards,” says Mr. Phillips. “I know a lot of students that have amazing work, but they just won’t take that last step to submit their work.”
That’s why Mr. Phillips says he tries to encourage all of his students enrolled in his creative writing course to submit their work. Henderson and Echols were first suggested to submit their work by Mr. Phillips. “I probably wouldn’t have entered anything had it not been for Mr. Phillips,” says Echols.
Others also received suggestions from their English teacher. Both Reistrom and Schueler said their English teacher Joe Dechick helped them in revising and editing their pieces. “J-D has great teachers who care a lot about the writing program, and I think that’s why we were so successful at the competition,” says Schueler.