Somers Teens Win Prestigious Writing Awards

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(clockwise from top left) Michelle Croen, Lauren Chiriboga, Sophie Goodwin, Mary Kate Murphy, Rachel Mendelson and Grace Dashnaw. Not pictured: Margaret Groton. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Patricia Baldes

SOMERS, N.Y. – A group of Somers eighth-graders has joined the illustrious ranks of writers like Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates and Sylvia Plath, by winning awards in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition.

Since its inception 90 years ago, the competition has attracted more than 13 million students nationwide. In the past five years, submissions have topped 700,000, and students have been eligible for more than $25 million in awards and scholarships.

Awards are given in 28 categories, including art, prose, film, poetry, sculpture and photography.

“We encourage our students to create original work and then follow through with the submission process,” said eighth-grade teacher Patricia Baldes, who co-teaches with Kirstin Reynolds.

“We believe it’s worthwhile to teach them that they stand a chance. In the eighth grade we study abstract language and metaphor. The kids create poems using metaphors.”

The following are the Somers award winners. You can read a selection of their poems here.

  • Lauren Chiriboga: Honorable Mention for her poetry collection, "My Poems...My Rules"
  • Michelle Croen: Silver Key Award for her poetry collection, "Circus"
  • Grace Dashnaw: Silver Key Award for her short story, "Destined"
  • Sophie Goodwin: Honorable Mention for her poetry collection, "Odds and Ends"
  • Margaret Groton: Gold Key Award for her poem, "Scarf Closet," and Honorable Mention for her story, "Ticket to Ride"
  • Rachel Mendelson: Gold Key Award for her poem, "Utterly Edited," and Silver Key Award for her poem, "Ray of Hope"
  • Mary Kate Murphy: Gold Key Award for her poem, "Rise and Fall," and Honorable Mention for her poem, "Melody."

The Gold Key Award is the highest level of achievement on a regional level and is attained by roughly seven to ten percent of entrants. Somers falls in the Westchester/Fairfield Region.

The Silver Key Award is similar, and attained by approximately 10 to 15 percent of entrants. Honorable Mention implies artistic potential and is awarded to approximately 15 to 20 percent of regional entrants.

“Last year we had two winners, so this is our biggest achievement yet,” said Baldes. “From here, the kids get judged at the national level in March.”

Among the many well-known jurors who assess the entries have been Francine Prose, Paul Giamatti, Langston Hughes, Judy Blume, Paula Poundstone, David Sedaris, Roz Chast, and Billy Collins.

Works are published at the discretion of the supporting organization, The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, in journals such as Best Teen Writing, Junior Scholastic magazine, Scholastic Art magazine and The New York Times Upfront magazine.

Click here to read the Gold Key award-winning poems. 

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Jo Pitkin:

Congratulations! It's wonderful to read about the accomplishments of younger poets in Somers. Keep writing!

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