CCA students unlock creativity with Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition
Commonwealth Charter Academy has been a regional affiliate sponsor since 2010. This year, 780 awards were given to students in eight counties.
Students across the nation are used to being graded on attendance and aptitude, marked by their ability to memorize and produce. Opportunities for learners to express themselves creatively are rare – and extremely important on the journey to growing into well-rounded individuals.
Commonwealth Charter Academy instructional coach Brock Shelley recognized this need, motivating him to keep the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition alive in south-central Pennsylvania.
The Scholastic competition – an educational staple since 1923 – boasts a notable list of previous winners, including well-known names such as Andy Warhol, Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates.
The competition in the South-central region had been sponsored by The Patriot-News in Harrisburg. In 2010, the newspaper dropped the sponsorship and, with Shelley at the helm, CCA became a regional affiliate sponsor.
This sponsorship not only allows CCA learners access to participate but provides the opportunity to students in schools across the area. CCA’s sponsorship covers eight counties: Adams, Franklin, York, Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry, Juniata and Lebanon. There are an average of 75 schools that participate each year in this region.
This year, there were 2,400 combined entries for writing and art. There were 780 gold keys, silver keys and honorable mention awards given to students. Students who won gold and silver keys were invited, along with their families and teachers, to an awards ceremony at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg on Saturday, March 14.
Winning work will be on display at The State Museum of Pennsylvania from Feb. 25 until April 16.
Shelley, who serves as CCA’s Scholastic Art & Writing affiliate director, says a significant advantage of the competition is the impartial judging.
“Typically, a learner that likes to draw or write may share it with a teacher or family member and receive praise for it," he said, "but we’ve found that, many times, they don’t accept the praise because they think that it’s biased. By entering pieces in a contest, to be judged by people who know nothing about them, their work is recognized for the creativity that’s displayed sight unseen. It can be a great validation of their skills from objective judges.”
Entries are judged by community members, including college professors and students, teachers, journalists, bookstore owners, publishing agents, authors and artists.
The categories, divided broadly into art and writing, offer plenty of room for flexibility. Students can enter short stories, poetry, video games, paintings, mixed media pieces and more. Once the entries have been judged, learners have the opportunity to win one of three awards: an honorable mention, a silver key or a gold key. Those who earn gold keys go on to compete at the national level, with top winners potentially walking away with scholarship money and an invitation to the national awards ceremony in New York's Carnegie Hall.
Arts and Humanities Conservatory Manager Stephanie Goforth is involved in the competition. She works alongside students to create quality art and writing, and she assists Shelley with the legwork involved: reaching out to school districts, helping learners prepare their pieces, lining up judging panels and reporting scores back to learners. “This year, there were more students that submitted work from CCA than ever before,” Goforth said.
CCA students submitted 35 entries, with four going on to win accolades. Eleventh-grader Mikaela Phillips won a gold key for her original poem, “The Reality of My Imaginary Friend.” Sophomore Quran Hernandez received honorable mention for his mixed media artwork of a pistachio flower.
Emily Castro, a junior at CCA, earned honorable mentions for two short story entries. Senior Kenneth Gatten III earned honorable mention for his journalism piece.
The Scholastic Art & Writing competition, along with CCA’s arts and humanities program as a whole, provides a much-needed space for learners to put their creativity on display.
“With creativity, feedback isn’t as easy as an A+ or a percentage score. It needs to be a little more pointed, more specific to the piece that the student is developing,” Shelley said. “Learners need to be able to have personalized feedback. By involving learners in conservatories and competitions, it gives them another outlet and opportunity to express and develop themselves.”
Goforth said the Arts and Humanities Conservatory aims for similar results.
“Our goal is to provide in-depth experience with every subject matter that students are interested in," she said. "We hope that this enriches them, makes them more well-rounded students and helps to prepare them for jobs in their field of interest.”