In January, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (SAWA) announced its regional winners for 2017, honoring 22 Upper School students—one fewer than last year—with a collective 14 gold keys, seven silver keys, and 16 honorable mentions for writing and artwork.
SAWA, a non-profit organization, has recognized student writing and art since 1923 and seeks to honor both skill and originality, according to its website. A panel of judges select students for gold and silver keys and honorable mentions regionally, and those who win gold advance to the national pool. The 11 students advancing—those who together won 14 gold keys—are Zetty Cho, Claudia Inglessis, Christina Knight, Angela Liu, Emory Sabatini, Yliuz Sierra Marin, Maggie Swanson (all ’18), Halley Douglas, Avik Sarkar, Laila Shadid (all ’19), Sylvia Murphy, and Jayanth Uppaluri (both ’20). Of over 330,000 applications nationwide, 90,000 received regional recognition.
Avik won a gold key for his analytical essay titled “Social Commentary in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” which he wrote for English Department Head Sharon Krauss’ AP English class, Aliens. He said he hadn’t originally planned to submit that piece but did so upon Ms. Krauss’ suggestion.
Avik also won a gold key for “To My Cousin, Who Forgot How to Speak” and a silver key for his poem “Parting.” He said his inspiration came from authors like Jhumpa Lahiri and Chang-Rae Lee, who write about the experience of living between two cultures.
“My hope was to capture and explore some parts of my Indian heritage that are hugely important to who I am,” Avik said. “And receiving this award has definitely inspired me to keep creating and to continue to develop my skills as a writer.”
Another recipient of a gold key was Yliuz Sierra Marin ’18, who submitted “Curandera in the 21st Century,” which he wrote in English Teacher Allison Kornet’s senior elective, True Stories and the Personal Essay. In his essay Yliuz drew on his experience growing up in Colombia with a grandmother who used folk remedies to heal and help the family. The essay also explored the pre-colonial culture of indigenous peoples in the country and some of the traditions that have been passed down for generations.
“The essay was an opportunity to reflect on my childhood and share with the class the aspects of my country that I find most peculiar and interesting,” Yliuz said. “When I received the award, I felt even more encouraged to share my culture and experiences with people.”
Annabel Kiley ’19 won a silver key for her photograph, “Egg Factory,” which portrays a young girl’s skirt covered in real fried egg. She also won an honorable mention for “In the Hands of God; her Hands,” a digital art piece.
“My art was inspired by all the strong women expressing themselves in the world and taking a stand for equality,” she said. “I was glad the SAWA honored that.”
Also garnering awards for her visual art was Angela Liu ’18, who won an honorable mention for her painting “Yi Experience” and a gold key for her painting “A Trek Worth-While,” which depicts two young girls in ballet leotards walking through a rural Chinese landscape. Angela said her summer teaching English and ballet to kids in rural China inspired both paintings.
“My students had to walk miles from their homes to come to dance class every day,” Angela said. “The path in [A Trek Worth-While] represents the difficult road ahead for the two young ballet girls, both literally and figuratively.”
Ms. Krauss said she likes the opportunity SAWA gives to students.
“It’s important for students to know that their writing has merit outside the classroom,” she said. “The SAWA gives them an opportunity to give their writing a larger readership and to feel recognized as writers, not just students.”
Gold and silver key winners and their teachers have been invited to attend an awards ceremony at Tufts University on March 17 to honor them and their work. Gold key winners will hear back in mid-March about if they won national recognition.