By JERRY CHEN ‘22 and AKILAN MANIVANNAN ‘22
ARTICLE WAS UPDATED ON APRIL 23, 2021
Although the coronavirus has halted many student activities, it has not stopped the academic efforts of student writers at Edison High School. The Scholastic Arts and Writing Program has been offering teen students from across the United States numerous opportunities each year to express their original creativity and talent. This includes writing poems to portray the many symbolic elements of life, showcasing talent in photography, and producing art in a well-crafted medium. Others include essays expressing one’s perspective regarding a variety of topics. Although the global pandemic causes problems within society, it also gives students the time to evaluate their current circumstances — many new perspectives are shown from the lockdown. Each of these works are evaluated by the program and awards are given out. This gives students the opportunities to exhibit their work and earn scholarships for their effort.
There are two awards a student can receive for their creative efforts; a regional award or a national award. Regional awards include Gold Key, Silver Key, Honorable Mention, American Visions Nominee, and American Voices Nominee. Those who receive regional recognition are eligible to compete in the national competition where they are compared to the best from other regions of the country. Abigail Alvarez ‘21 and Kathleen Zhou ‘21, with their Gold Key Awards, were both automatically entered into the national competition announced on March 17.
Our school had many talents who had made placements within this competition. In addition to Alvarez and Zhou’s respective Gold Key awards. Ali Ahmed ‘22, Aamna Haider ‘24, and Shravani Joshi ‘23, won Silver Key Awards. Finally, Ahmed and Dhani Girdhar ‘24 both received honorable mention in the competition.
Ahmed, whose photograph of the moon entitled A Pearl Upon the Heavens of Jersey earned him the Silver Key, explains that he competed for the ability to express his work to the public, rather than the benefits it provided. “The Scholastic Program served to give me a platform for my work to be judged upon. I never did astrophotography because I desired to be famous—rather, I did it for my own self-satisfaction. The Scholastic program gave me an opportunity to showcase pieces I had been making just for fun and win awards for it!” stated Ahmed.
The Scholastic programs allows students like Ahmed to showcase hobbies; rather than being seen as a stern academic competition, Ali sees it as a priority for fun. Furthering this, he also gave advice to future competitors. “Find something you enjoy, and just do it. Your best art (or in my case astrophotography) came because it was so much fun,” Ahmed said. “When you’re enjoying making art, it doesn’t feel like work. I spent hours making one image, but it felt like mere seconds ”
Alvarez provided greater insight into why artists/writers enter into the competition. She states “competing in this competition brought self assurance that I was going in the right direction and trust that I’m going in the right career in a passion I love.” The humanities career is tough to get your voice heard; the Scholastic Competition allowed her to ensure her skills and future by being recognized by esteemed judges. Due to the instability of the career, people are often averted from it, including Abigail. Gaining recognition in this competition reassured her confidence in her abilities in English and that it was the path she wanted to pursue.
Especially in humanities, it is easy to get discouraged due to the unpredictable and subjective aspect of it. Based on her first experience entering the competition in previous years, she did not get any awards. She was discouraged; however, she persevered and her efforts paid off at the end.
“As a writer, you’re gonna have to get used to rejection. You have to be a writer who’s resilient. Take a rejection and find a way to improve your work,” Alvarez added.
EHS English Teacher Mrs. Diane Frey Frey agrees. “It’s more about recognition, approval, and validation. In the classroom it’s hard to get that authentic judge. The Scholastic Awards involves professional artists critiquing work. It’s one thing for me to judge, but it’s another to be judged by accomplished writers across the nation,” Frey stated.
This year was tough for many but despite the hurdles students faced, success could still be found. Moving beyond this year as the pandemic begins to fade, students can look forward to entering one of the 28 categories as early as September 2021. For more information, see the Scholastic Art and Writing website: https://www.artandwriting.org/.