The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is a highly prestigious contest that recognizes the most promising voices in middle and high school. This year, they received 350,000 entries. Only the top 15% of the entries receive an award. All of our eligible students participate, and some submit more than one piece. We had 22 winners!!
Today, we are going to give you some high school winners who submitted through our Literature & Composition classes. Anna D. won Honorable Mention in the Short Story category, and Eliza S. won Silver Key in the Short Story category AND a Gold key in the Personal Essay category. Her personal essay will go on to be judged in the national contest.
By Anna D., Pennsylvania, 10th Grade
Honorable Mention, Short Story
A few months ago, I decided to apply to work at Dairy Queen. Dairy Queen is an ice cream/fast food place, and it is only five minutes away from my house. After a few complications, I finally acquired the application and returned it to them after filling it out. Soon after, I received a text message from the general manager. He was asking me to come in for an interview! In the text, he introduced himself as Caston. I’d never heard that name before, and I thought that maybe he’d made a typo. Maybe he meant Carston. As we sat down a few days later for the interview, he introduced himself again as Caston. Huh, I guess his name is just weird. I was surprised; he barely even talked about the job. Caston was asking me many unrelated questions including my favorite sports teams, what church I go to, and a few others. He filled me with helpful information as well, including my bimonthly payments.
“We are going to hire you; I will put you on next week’s schedule.”
Shocked, I thanked him. I returned home and excitedly told my parents about my new job.
The next week, I went to work. I was fairly nervous, as it was my first day. But I was mostly excited! I walked in, and my new coworkers greeted me kindly. They each introduced themselves, and I was relieved to find that they were all very nice. Well, most of them. Shayla, one of my managers, told me I looked like I hadn’t slept in ages, and then to follow a girl named Sophia to learn how to work there. Yes, maybe I did look a little rough. Although Sophia is nice, she wasn’t exactly teaching me how to make things. Our conversations would go like this:
“I’m making a hot fudge sundae.”
She would just tell me she’s making something, but not show me how or let me do it. Then, when I was told to make things, my coworkers were confused when I didn’t do it right. I eventually learned how to make a few things, and the rest of the night went pretty well. It was a Friday, so we were very busy, leaving no room for plodding. We closed the store, cleaned, restocked, and I left.
A few days later, I returned for my second shift. I learned many more things, so I was pretty confident. There were different people working this time, so I met some new coworkers (all nice as well). While blending Blizzards, we have to hold the cup, insert a long, spinning blade into it, and step on a pedal to turn on the machine. When I was blending one, my fingers slipped off the rim of the cup. It fell from my grasp onto the floor! Immediately, a piece of chocolate flew out and hit my coworker directly in the eye. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, I didn’t remove my foot from the pedal quick enough and ice cream went flying! It covered me and the floor! Then, I slipped on the spilled ice cream and face planted on the ground. I was extremely horrified! It was a haphazardly eventful day. I cleaned up the ice cream, with help from my other coworkers.
I find it funny now, but in moment, I felt fairly dejected after I messed up. I ended up telling my friends what had happened that day, and laughed it off. From then on, no other embarrassing mishaps were performed during work. My coworkers are fun to work with, and I look forward to my shifts. I will definitely be more careful when blending Blizzards now!
The Day the Giants Fell
By Eliza S., Delaware, 10th grade
Silver Key, Short Story
With the crowd cheering, salty sweat dripping down all our faces, and Coach Ray screaming at us in our huddle, the pressure continued to build every second the clock ticked down. Ten seconds remained of our time out, while the referee blew his whistle as we called out our cheer. Already having played four sets, we walk back onto the court with little to no energy left. The Score was 12-14 with Caravel Academy in the lead and having the serve. They only needed one more point to win this whole volleyball match. Everyone was breathing heavily, waiting for the ball to be served. The whistle blew, and Caravel shot the ball across the net. Miley, our team’s libero, answered the serve with a perfect pass. Morgan, our team’s setter, who happened to be the best in the state, quickly scanned the floor to see which one of our hitters was ready to take a swing. She made a quick decision, and the ball started floating over towards me. I took my approach. My heart was pounding. I could feel every drop of sweat sliding down my forehead. The crowd sounded muffled. I approached the ball and swung with all my might. It was not enough to get past their blockers. The ball ricocheted off their hands and landed on our side of the court. We all stood shocked as the gym filled with cheers from the Caravel fans.
My best friend Stella came over to me and said, “Cara, don’t even think about it. Everyone made mistakes tonight that led to this loss. Please don’t put this burden on yourself. Ok?” I nodded my head “yes” while my heart and mind were saying “no.” I knew already this loss was going to follow me like a dark shadow. I could feel it in my mind, already making headway.
My love for volleyball and my competitive nature never made it easy for me to let my mistakes go. I had been playing this game since I was eleven years old and becoming the best outside hitter in the state had always been a goal of mine. Mistakes that cost games were difficult for me to forget.
Our coach quickly grabbed her stuff, came into our huddle with an exasperated look in her eye, and said, “See you all tomorrow for practice and make sure to bring your running shoes!” That night we all went home thinking of what kind of torment she was going to put us through in tomorrow’s practice.
The next day after school, our team gathered in the gym for our practice. We all got our shoes and kneepads on and started to set up the net. While getting all the equipment, we saw Coach Ray walk in with this mischievous smile on her face, like she was about to put us through our toughest practice yet. Stella, our best middle on the team, looked at me with a mingle of befuddlement and fear. When we were almost done setting the net up, Coach Ray called us over for a quick team meeting. We huddled up and she began to speak.
“So, we had a tough loss last night, and that was a real bummer, but I also want to apologize for the way I left the gym last night. It was very unprofessional of me, and I hope you can forgive me for that. On the other hand, I also want to talk about how you guys performed. I felt like you fought hard, but I also thought that maybe I didn’t prepare you guys enough for these hard teams we are going to face. So today we are going to work on our coverage, and first ball kills. That is where I thought our weaknesses were most evident in last night’s game. Go finish setting up the net and we’ll get to work.”
Once the net was ready Coach Ray told us to go into our first rotation. She then taught us a new drill called “All the Little Things,” where we go through our rotations, and transfer from base, to defense, to offense, into coverage, and back to base defense. We would do this order from the outside, middle, and right side, repeatedly until Coach Ray thought it was enough. For everyone, this was a tiring drill. Once we got through all the rotations, Coach Ray gave us a thirty second water break and then we went right back to work. This was a different side of Coach Ray I had never seen before. I wasn’t sure how much I liked this side of her. She was like a Marine drill sergeant tearing us down and building us into something better. I knew she meant it for our good, but it was going to take some getting used to.
Jogging back onto the court, everyone was trying to catch their breath. We did a different drill where we had to get five first ball kills in a row to proceed into the next rotation. It didn’t take us that long to get five in a row since we didn’t have any blockers in front of us. I felt like my timing was still off. The memory of the night before was plaguing my mind. The ball would be set to the outside and every time I hit, I would either be too early, or too late. Morgan tried to give me some advice to help with my timing, but Coach Ray thought we were taking too much time out of the drill. I tried to explain what we were doing, but Coach Ray wasn’t putting up with it. Morgan then started having an attitude towards Coach. Coach Ray was often hard on Morgan because she was her stepmother. It could be frustrating at times for the rest of the team. Daughters and mothers often have drama. Add to it the dynamics of stepmom and coach and it’s like having a jug of gasoline sitting next to a box of matches.
“I’m proud of all of you for working so hard tonight, but I also wanted to say that this is how practice is going to go for the rest of the week. I need you guys to be prepared and conditioned for Friday’s game against Saint Marks. So, you all might hate me for right now, but you all will love me later! On that note, drive home safe and get a good night’s rest.”
Everyone grabbed their bags and went out the door. When I came out of the building, I saw my dad waiting in his car. I opened the door and my dad immediately exclaimed, “Cara, what took you guys so long? I’ve been waiting for over a half hour.”
Struggling to get my stuff in the car I responded, “We were doing a lot of different drills today and we were working on our serves at the end.”
“Your coach isn’t supposed to keep you guys over a two-hour practice. I think there’s a limit. That’s just not right.”
“I know, Dad, I know. Let’s just go home, ok?” I said in a dejected tone that I was hoping would convey that I didn’t want to talk about it.
“Well, it better not happen again.”
We drove home in silence, and once we got home, I took a quick shower and went straight to bed.
The days flew by quickly. Our next game was right around the corner. Everyone was practicing their hardest, getting ready for the big game against St. Marks. This was going to be our hardest game of the season. St. Marks is undefeated and has not even given up a single set to any of their opponents. We practiced the same drills all week; except we added a little scrimmage at the end to help us prepare for the giant we were about to face. Coach Ray invited graduated players from years before to scrimmage with us. This was probably everyone’s favorite part of the practices. Sometimes we would make some great plays and other times the former players would really school us with their strength. Either way, we felt ready for what we were about to face.
Our game was scheduled for 7:15. As each hour went by my stomach began to churn inside me like waves over a jagged coastline. Part of me wished I would come down with a fever just so I wouldn’t have to play. I did my schoolwork, ate some lunch, and went through the motions of the day without really focusing. I tried to do all I could to fight the lingering memory of my missed hit against Caravel that was haunting me like a tormenting ghost. Finally, it was time to board the bus to head to the game. We arrived at St. Marks in plenty of time. I noticed as I entered the gym all the smells from the concession stand. The wafting odor made me even more nauseous than I already was. Hot dogs and locker room sweat is not a good mix. I tried to relax and drink some water to feel better as I watched the JV game. The game went by quicker than expected. Our team got all their gear on and started to warm up. Passing, setting, and hitting in a continuous pattern back and forth to our teammates. The referee blew his whistle for the teams’ captains to run up to decide who had the serve and who was receiving.
Morgan ran back to the team and shouted, “We have the serve!” Everyone cheered with excitement, and we went into our six-minute warmup time.
We started our warm-up drills with great intensity. Each player got into their proper position on the court. Coach tossed the ball, the passer bumped it to the setter, the setter pushed it to the hitter, and the hitter took a swing. I was feeling loose, and my nerves were subsiding a bit. I was getting into that zone that made me feel invincible. After, we had a quick team chat and watched the other team warm up. Once everyone was warm, we headed out onto the court, then the referee blew his whistle and the first set started.
Morgan was the first server. The whistle blew and the ball went soaring. Flying, almost going out of bounds, their backrow players yelled, “out,” to indicate to their teammates to let it go, but the ball landed in.
“Yes! Let’s go!” the team screamed. We calmed back down and put our game faces on. I reset myself, in a ready position at the net. The ball was served, and St. Marks got the pass. The ball soared over to the setter and into the hitter’s hand. It was a cross shot right over to me. I didn’t even have time to react. Right in front of me, the ball dropped, and they earned a point. Oh no, not again, I thought to myself as I committed another error. We came together and told each other to shake it off. I took a deep breath and waited for the serve. Pass, set, kill! They didn’t see it coming. I made a shot right down the line that they couldn’t pick up. A point for us! Morgan scored several times by pushing the ball to the deep corner, and Stella got five straight kills in that match. The points kept moving back and forth with the score now at 12-8 with our team in the lead! We kept giving it our all. All that hard practice was paying off. Our team took the first set and ended it at 25-21, and we weren’t about to stop there.
With the first set done, we progressed into the second set. Just by looking at them, they could tell that our team was brimming with a fire, that if unleashed, would run through the gym like a heat wave, melting the hope of a St. Marks’ victory with it. Every single one of us was filled to the rim with adrenaline. We were just beginning to give them a taste of how this night was going to go. Our coach huddled us together and gave us another pep talk. She knew we could win this game if we kept believing in our ability and worked together as a team.
“Miley! Fantastic digs, but I’d like them to be a little bit closer to the net.”
“Morgan! Awesome sets, just get them a little more off the net.”
“Stella, extraordinary swings! Keep hitting the five and the one spot. I believe in you, kid!”
“Cara! Outstanding line shots! Keep swinging there and if they try to block you, tool them.”
“Ladies, I’m so proud of you for working so hard this week and putting up an amazing first fight against this team. Now let’s keep up the good work.”
Now that our huddle was over, we drank some water, and back onto the court we went like warriors to the battlefield. The second set got started and St. Marks served the first ball. Our team scored the first point with Stella getting the kill. Miley was our next server and gave us a head start with three service aces! We couldn’t contain our excitement. All our hitters were on point with their timing and swings. St. Marks looked like a deer caught in headlights and had no idea where all this fight was coming from. Miley was giving perfect passes to Morgan, and Morgan’s sets were phenomenal. The score was now 20-17. We only needed five more points to take this set! It would be so great to win this match in just three sets! The crowd was going crazy like a Roman mob in the gladiator arenas, cheering and chanting with such amazing enthusiasm. I had just rotated into the front row, and I was so eager to get a swing at that ball. St. Marks had the serve, and Miley got another perfect pass to Morgan.
I shouted, “Outside! Outside!” at the top of my lungs while Stella shouted, “Middle! Middle! Middle!” Morgan chose the outside, and the ball came my way. I took my approach, and the ball was perfectly set up for me to swing down line. I hit it, and the ball shot down on their line like a torpedo. My confidence was building with each successful swing. Twice more I got the ball down the line. Our team was pumping with adrenaline. We took another set from St. Marks with the scores 25-23. I couldn’t believe it! We were beating the mighty St. Marks. These two sets could have been victory enough, but there was more volleyball left to play. I was hoping beyond all hope we had what it took to come out on top!
Onto the third set, and we weren’t about to let up. This time we kept getting beat by their outside hitter, killing us with every chance she got. St. Marks was leading 15-12. Coach decided to have a timeout before St. Marks could potentially pull away. She gave us a new game plan to have Miley receiving from the spot where their hitter kept beating us. It was now or never. We played through some long rallies, and we wouldn’t let up – pushing every single point and cheering each other on at each good play. All of us were dripping with sweat and the score was tied at 21-21.
I couldn’t help but wonder what St. Marks must have been thinking. You could tell that they were in distress. It was written all over their faces. Point by point we battled. The score was 25-24. All we needed was one more point. Did we have what it took? The pressure built to its limit. St. Marks started the play off with a serve. Miley received the ball and gave a great pass to Morgan. I knew the set was coming my way. Thoughts of Caravel and my previous failure flashed inside my mind like an enemy from my past. I quickly pushed it down by engrossing all my energy on the incoming ball. I locked my eyes on the ball, and it felt as if my body knew exactly what to do next. I shuffled back so I could take a proper approach, and I wailed on that ball with all my might. A loud thud followed the sound of my hit. My heart almost skipped a beat when I saw the ball falling in what seemed like slow motion. The ball went right through the outspread hands of both their blockers and propelled towards their side of the court. I could not see where the ball had landed on the floor. It seemed like an eternity, but finally I heard the convincing thud of the ball being ricocheted off a passer’s arms, followed by a moment of silence, then with the roar of the crowd right behind it. I was not registering which side of the gym the cheers were coming from. Then finally, breaking through my dazed mind I heard, “We won! We won!” coming from the familiar voices of my own teammates. I could not believe what just happened. The next thing I knew my whole team was on top of me with cheers and bear hugs. My heart was bursting with pride and elation. We had done what no other school in the state had accomplished. We had beaten the mighty giants and their fall would reverberate inside us like thunder. I had also beaten my own giant inside my mind. I knew we would never forget this night. It was one of those stories we would tell for a long time to come. The night that we beat the number one team in the state!
Friendship: A Memoir
By Eliza S., Delaware, 10th grade
Gold Key, Personal Essay
A couple of weeks ago my best friend invited me to go to her school’s football game. I will call her Leona. I was extremely excited to be hanging out with her since we had not seen each other in a while. We go to separate schools now that we are in high school. Not even thinking twice about it, I said yes to the invitation. After I arrived at her house, we got ready together and walked over to the football field. When we got to the entrance, Leona was so kind and bought my ticket for me. I had money to pay for my own ticket, but she insisted that she would pay. Once we were in the stadium, we got in line to grab food. Again, Leona was so generous to buy us both food for the game. Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and Gatorade for the win! I tried to convince her that I could pay for my own food, but she insisted and said,” I’m paying, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“No, no!” I quickly added. “You already bought my ticket. You aren’t going to buy my food for me too.”
“Yes, I am!” she said with a sassy tone.
“No, you’re not!” I quipped, matching the same sassy tone.
“Yes, I am!”
“No, you’re not!” I said one last time trying to sound undefeated. We could have gone on forever like this, so I relented to her kindness. Such kindness can make one feel awkward and loved all at the same time.
As we began to meander through the large crowd of people, trying to navigate with our sandwiches and drinks, my friend saw a group of her school friends in the distance. I knew none of these people. I did not see a single familiar face. We walked over to the group, and Leona introduced me to them, and started to make conversation including me in everything. Everyone was talking about music, TikTok dances, and the game. It was a little awkward at first, but they all made me feel very welcomed. While they were talking, I started to think about how I had made an excellent choice about Leona being one of my closest friends. I also thought about different people in the past that I have chosen to be close friends with and how different the relationships were when I chose them for all the wrong reasons.
Four years ago, when I was in 6th grade, I met a girl that I will call Trisha. She seemed to be kind. We both enjoyed each other’s company and ended up in the same classes together. In the beginning of our friendship, we spent time together, had sleepovers, and made many fun memories of just spending time together and laughing a lot. Fast-forward to a year later; that is when it all went downhill. It turns out that she was gossiping about me behind my back to my other friends. All the lies and gossip that were spread caused me to lose many of those friends. When I went to school everyone ignored me as if I were invisible. The most I would get was a simple “hi” or head nod. I would think to myself, It’s ok Eliza. You can get through this. Keep your head up and try to smile. This was a very difficult and painful time in my life. With all the torment she had caused, it left me feeling afflicted and alone. Sometimes the loneliness felt like a cold fog had engulfed me and was clinging to me like a wet blanket. My mom is the one who helped me overcome all these struggles. She prayed with me often, helped me to see how valuable I was as a person, and encouraged me to forgive through it all. It did not take long for me to realize that this friendship was over, and, in the end, I would be better off without Trisha. I have since watched her do the same things to so many other people that she had done to me. I was appalled by how one girl could cause so much devastation to people’s lives. Once all my old friends realized what type of person Trisha was, I was able to rekindle some of these relationships. Some, I came to realize, were never going to be repaired, but I am at peace with that now. I know that I have grown as a person and friend, and that I have a lot to offer in relationships with others, and for me that is enough.
Remembering all the pain I felt from my friend’s betrayal taught me so much about what kind of person I want to be and what kind of friends I want to have. I want to be loyal, kind, and I want to esteem others above myself. This experience has helped me see characteristics in people that I want to be around and helps me choose them to be my closest friends. I want friends who like me for who I am, give of themselves, and are loyal. As I walked around the football stadium with Leona, and we finally rested ourselves in those frigid, metal bleachers, I was feeling so happy to have a friend like her in my life. I never want to do anything that would hurt her or cause our relationship to be harmed in any way. I am grateful for the gift of friendship because I spent time feeling lonely at the hands of a person who did not care about the feelings of others. My friendship with Leona is a precious thing and we both value each other. There is no better feeling than hanging out with people who you know care about you. The simple experience of the football lights on a Friday night, the sound of the crowds cheering, the beat of the band playing, and the smell of hot dogs and mustard all became the backdrop for moments I know will be some of my most favorite memories with my favorite person.
Interested in Preparing Your Own Story?
Is your child interested in taking our Creative Writing workshop so that they can enter the Scholastic Contest this fall? Or perhaps they need a grammar refresher or help preparing college applications.
Whatever your need, we have a workshop designed to help. Our workshops last four weeks and are self-paced through each week–all assignments are due Friday EST. These classes are wonderful supplements to encourage your child in the things they do well, or help them focus in on the things they need to work on.