Several middle- and high-school students from Maine were recognized for winning National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The awards have celebrated creative teens since 1923; they are presented by the Alliance of Young Artists & Writers, a nonprofit whose mission is to identify students with exceptional visual and literary talent.
The following local national student winners are in the top 1 percent of those across the country who entered the Scholastic competition: Alexandra Auger, Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth, eighth grade, gold medal, personal essay/memoir; Sadie Cowles, Harrison Middle School, eighth grade, gold medal/best in grade, personal essay/memoir; Joey Han, Falmouth High School, 11th grade, gold medal, comic art; Katie Han, Falmouth High School, ninth grade, gold medal, photography; and Afton Morton, North Yarmouth Academy, eighth grade, silver medal, short story. Students from every state in grades seventh through 12 submitted nearly 320,000 original works during the 2016 Scholastic program across 29 categories of art and writing.
The awards ceremony, held June 2 at Carnegie Hall in New York, featured celebrity speakers such as filmmaker Ken Burns, actor Alec Baldwin and TV personality Tim Gunn. Gunn exhorted the students to “move forward, be a sponge, be curious, navigate the world responsibly and respectfully.”
“I thought the ceremony was very well done, and I enjoyed all the speeches—especially Tim Gunn’s,” said Auger. “These awards have really been a great experience for me and made me more confident as a writer.”
The winning art and writing works are also being exhibited until mid-June at New York’s Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute as part of the Art.Write.Now.2016 showcase.
“It was inspiring being with so many other young artists from around the country all in one place and seeing their work,” said Han.
Past Scholastic Award recipients include Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford, Joyce Carol Oates and Ken Burns.
Of the 153 NYA students who participated in the National Language Exams – National Latin Exam, National Spanish Exam, or National French Contest – over half received recognition, including: 30 with an honorable mention or cum laude, 14 with a bronze medal or magna cum laude, 17 with a silver medal or maxima cum laude, and 17 with a gold medal or summa cum laude.
Several local students at North Yarmouth Academy were ranked first in the state on the National French Contest or National Spanish Exam, including Ark Lu of Cumberland Foreside, French; Marina Piehl of Freeport, French; Annie Sillin of Yarmouth, French; Eliza Tod ’of Falmouth, Spanish I); Leo Webster, Cumberland Foreside, Spanish IV); and Anna Yankee, Freeport, French. In addition, Wyatt Nice, of Portland was one of two students in the state to earn second place in the state for advanced placement Spanish V.
Caroline Denoia, a senior at Falmouth High School, received the Governor’s Exemplary Youth Volunteer of the Year Award this spring. Denoia was one of only two people recognized under the age of 18 in the state. Denoia, who is the daughter of Peter and Maura Denoia, of Falmouth, earned more than 250 service hours over the course of her high school career, with over 100 earned her senior year. She has especially demonstrated a special gift of connecting with children; she volunteered at Mercy Hospital and the Barbara Bush Children’s hospital at Maine Med for the past three years. In the past year she spent more than 70 hours at Maine Med as a child life volunteer for children who are hospitalized.
When she is not volunteering at one of the hospitals Denoia is active with other nonprofits and volunteer opportunities. Recently, she volunteered through Kid’s First, a resource center for divorcing parents. For the past two years Denoia has been a high school mentor leading kindergartners through service projects, helping them connect to the causes and needs in a concrete way.
In January 2014 she was a part of a Habitat for Humanity service team that traveled to a hurricane-ravaged community in Mississippi. Each night after working a full day on the Habitat site the team volunteered at a child development center for at-risk children. This spring Denoia became the first Service Learning intern at Falmouth High School, volunteering her time during what would be study halls to help with current service projects and also implementing her own large-scale projects.
In addition, she volunteers at a pantry in Portland that provides non-food essentials to 200-300 people. She has been a part of the Big Buddy program, meeting weekly with a student at a Falmouth elementary school. She also placed hundreds of flags on the graves of veterans for Memorial Day, mentored younger students through a hunger awareness project, and led groups of peers with special needs through games and activities as part of a multi-school winter invitational.
Alex Auger and Sadie Cowles were named gold medal award winners this spring for their respective submissions to the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.