Making Tenafly Proud: Four Medalists in the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards


When we are little, we learn the fundamentals of our scholastic careers: reading, writing, arithmetic. Many children spend their afternoons illustrating imaginative and never-ending stories. The beauty and skill of their writing and ability to create enhances as they grow older.

Four students from THS were able to showcase their talents in the 2019 National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. With two gold medals and two silver medals, Adi Gal, Michelle Lee, Seryung Park, and Kathryn Zheng succeeded in gaining national recognition for their hard work.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards has been supporting the future of creativity since 1923. The organization awards the best visual and literary artworks in the nation in regional and national-levels. Regional Awards include Gold Key, Silver Key, Honorable Mention, and American Visions & Voices Nominees. Participants need to receive the Gold Key award in the regional-level competition before being able to compete at the national level. National Awards include the Gold Medal, Silver Medal, American Visions & Voices Medals, Gold Medal & Silver Medal with Distinction Portfolios, and Special Achievement Awards. In 2019, nearly 340,000 works were submitted, and out of those, four THS students received national-level awards for their work.

“It was a very pleasant surprise,” said silver medalist, Seryung Park (’21). “I was planning to seriously enter next year with more works. I just wanted to see how the awards went, how I had to enter different things, and how I would have to write anything during my application. It was more of a participation thing, so when I received the award, I was pleasantly surprised.” Park’s piece was under the category of Personal Essay and Memoir, and it was about dealing with the death of a family member.

While submitting writing might be a chore for most students, for Kathryn Zheng (’20), it is a hobby that she has enjoyed since 7th grade. “I like the process [of writing] a lot; I like coming up with ideas and editing. I usually ask my friends to help me edit and I like hearing their critiques of my pieces,” says Zheng. Zheng had won three Honorable Mentions, three Silver Keys, and five Gold Keys in the New Jersey writing region. Her humor piece “You Can Write the Next Great American Novel” moved onto the national round and won a Gold Medal. This piece makes references to the Great American Novel, like having an ambiguous ending and starting in the middle of the scene and then jumping back to the protagonist’s childhood.

Adi Gal (‘19) submitted a collection of four poems to the competition. Her piece “After the Train” uses patterns of motion and stillness to describe someone riding a train and considering what is behind them and what is ahead. “Burning Bridges” uses a scene from Gal’s life, when she saw a building catch on fire; it talks about being unsure and directionless. “to my hero” talks about the futility of idolizing people who are inevitably flawed. “Descendants of God” talks about what makes humanity ultimately connected. “I love being able to create new worlds and people and stories and meaning, and have them come to life outside of my head. I can communicate a whole narrative that once existed only in my mind to the world, and I enjoy finding the cleverest, most illustrative ways to do so,” says Gal. Gal’s poem collection has references to both her personal experiences and her thoughts and ideas.

“The ability to tell any story through your own words,” says Michelle Lee (‘21), “is the best feeling. Writing can range from describing the reflection of light a melted snowflake can give off, to the myriad of colors that a vast city’s lights can flash! In other words, writing can tell the story of anything whether it’s big or small. The process of telling these stories from my point of view is what sparks my enjoyment for writing.” Lee won a Silver Medal in the Personal Essay and Memoir category for her piece, “Lies in Blue.” “Lies in Blue” utilizes the two definitions of the word ‘blue,’ the color and the feeling. The piece is about the lies Lee has encountered in different points of her life.

With the results of this year’s competition, THS can set its sights on the potential it holds for the future.