March 21, 2014:
Meilan Steimle, grade 9, has been awarded a silver medal in this year’s Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her short story, “Colorblind.” As a national medalist, Steimle is now eligible to attend the national awards ceremony at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in June. Congratulations!
Earlier this month, 21 Harker upper school students received the news that they had been named regional winners in this year’s Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. These awards have recognized and rewarded the creativity and vision of American students since 1923, and are now widely regarded as among the most prestigious awards for creative teenagers. Past winners in this contest include legendary figures such as Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote and Joyce Carol Oates.
“Our writing program fosters close critical reading coupled with synthesis thinking,” said Marc Hufnagl, upper school English department chair. “There are many opportunities here that encourage creative inquiries into literature, but with an understanding of the qualities of written expression and a facility with the mechanics that renders articulate writing.”
Kacey Fang, grade 11, who received two Gold Key Awards, the highest regional honor, said the program has done much to help her develop her talents. “I’m so grateful for their encouragement and for the support they showed in reading the writing that I shared with them,” she said. “They’ve helped me realize more about myself and my writing, and I feel more open about sharing my work now.”
Essential to the upper school writing program’s success has been finding unconventional ways to bolster the creative faculties of its students. “We offer students the opportunity to express their insight and creativity in ways that transcend the analytic essay,” said Pauline Paskali, upper school English teacher. “Students take reflective nature walks, create poems, story boards, short stories, movies, collages, parodies, electronic art, etc., as means of interpreting and experiencing the world through language.”
Paskali added that a strong humanities education helps students enhance their outlook on the world by enabling them to view it from a wide range of perspectives. “To become innovators and creators, our students need to observe their surroundings with a fresh set of eyes,” she said.
Some students, such as senior Zina Jawadi, who earned an Honorable Mention in the Personal Essay/Memoir category, found inspiration for their work in personal experiences. Diagnosed with hearing loss at just 3 years old, Jawadi drew from the eight years she spent in speech therapy and the cultural perspectives on disability that she encountered growing up as a child of Arabic background. “In my essay, I narrate my experience with Khattiyya, which means “poor thing” in Arabic, and how Khattiyya has ironically motivated me to change society’s perceptions of people with disabilities,” she said. “Eradicating social perceptions of Khattiyya has since been one of my advocacy motives.”
Students also find that what they learn in the writing program has benefits in other academic disciplines. “Because of the writing skills I developed at Harker, I have been asked to write articles on behalf of the nonprofit organization I am involved with,” said Jawadi. “Additionally, the writing techniques I developed from Harker’s humanities program contributed to my success in public speaking.” Jawadi was national Original Oratory finalist in last year’s National Catholic Forensics League tournament.
Fang said that in addition to boosting her appreciation for literature, her English classes also have helped her “analyze, think creatively and discuss constructively with peers, all skills that I think aid me in other classes and that I hope will last me a long ways into the future.”
Harker students won a total of seven Gold Key awards in this year’s contest. Fang won two; Connie Li, grade 12, earned one in the Poetry category; Albert Chu, grade 12, Apoorva Rangan, grade 11, and Meilan Steimle, grade 9, each won one in the Short Story category; and Suzy Lou, grade 11, won one in the Persuasive Writing category. All regional Gold Key winners are eligible for national-level awards.
Silver Keys in Poetry went to Li, Sahana Narayanan, grade 10, and Menghua Wu, grade 11. Arden Hu and Maya Nandakumar, both grade 11, won Silver Keys in Personal Essay/Memoir. Vineet Kosaraju, grade 10, won two Silver Keys in the Journalism category, in which Rangan also won. Lou and Samyukta Yagati, grade 11, each won in Persuasive Writing. Steimle won Silver Keys in Short Story and Flash Fiction. Eric Cheung, grade 11, earned one in Science Fiction/Fantasy.
Honorable mentions went to Fang, Hu, Jawadi, Kosaraju, Nandakumar, Narayanan, Rangan, Steimle, senior Stephanie Chen and juniors Juhi Gupta, Allison Kiang, Cheryl Liu, Manthra Panchapakesan, Mariam Sulakian, Samyukta Yagati and Leo Yu.