Every year, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in grades 7–12, recognizes 16 high school seniors who receive the program’s highest national honor, the Gold Medal Portfolio, which includes a $10,000 scholarship.
Leading up to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards week-long national celebration in New York City in June, the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers will spotlight two Gold Medal Portfolio recipients on their blog each week. This week, they are celebrating Emily Shonk, a 17-year-old artist from Gnadenhutten, OH and Kush Dhungana, a 17-year-old writer from Livingston, NJ.
Scroll down to learn more about Emily and Kush’s nationally recognized portfolios and to see samples of their impressive work!
Emily describes her art portfolio, titled “Tasty and Fashionable,” as “a series based on popular tasty foods that many people eat in their everyday life.” She goes on to explain, “Made with utmost concentration and patience, these rings were made from polymer clay, oil pastels, and acrylic paint. Tasty and fashionable is a miniature, artistic take on something we all love and enjoy: Food! When you look at this art, it’s hoped that you smile, chuckle, and maybe even feel your stomach grumble a little bit.”
Kush’s writing portfolio, titled “The Application Experience,” features a mix of poetry, flash fiction, and scripts. He says, “My portfolio explores the emotions and experiences of the college application process through the lens of Raj Dhanda, a Nepali high school senior and aspiring screenwriter. The portfolio loosely uses a framing device of an actual college application, complete with interpretations of a teacher recommendation, statement of purpose, and short screenplay portfolio. I hope that the portfolio can encourage young readers to fully embrace who they really are and realize their self-worth, to the point where they won’t feel the need to seek verification from any person or institution.”
Lost in Thought
Flash Fiction. By Kush Dhungana, Grade 12, Age 17, Livingston, NJ.
Kate wearily got out of bed and meandered to her kitchen, where she poured herself a cup of coffee. Sitting at the counter, she reached for the remote and turned on the TV. Chris Cuomo appeared, with the headline underneath: 7.1 Magnitude Argument with Parents.
“Our main story is still Raj’s argument from last night, reaching a magnitude of 7.1.”
As Cuomo continued to talk, Kate flipped through the morning paper. She skimmed through a choppier-than-usual “Raj Movie Review” of Wonder Woman, then half-finished reading a noticeably phoned-in editorial piece, “She Stared Back: What it Could Mean,” before looking back up at Chris Cuomo.
“We’re now joined by Kelly Leona. Kelly, any new details?”
“A few updates, Chris,” Kelly said. “As mentioned before, Wednesday night’s argument was with both parents, though most of the damage comes from Mom. We have about three fires in the amygdala, and the Writing Major Topic has officially been labelled a seismic danger zone.”
Kate turned the TV off, uninterested. Yes, she was aware that arguments were utter tragedies. But recently, arguments seemed almost like an everyday occurrence.
Since the dawn of College season, things had changed. It started with a lingering bitter wind, persisting through seismal arguments and Category 4 shitstorms, leaving an aura of anxiety across the state. Weather became moody, erratic; one minute, towns saw week-long floods, inundating Streams of Consciousness. The other, they faced intense droughts, causing severe Food for Thought shortages.
Then it happened. Kate still remembered the day vividly, opening the paper and seeing the headline, “Rejected by Top 3 Choices.” The clout of those words sent ripples of angst through Kate’s body, causing her stomach to drop. The sky turned to a faint, dusky grey. The town went numb.
The next day, the government sent down aid packages of Twitter memes and YouTube clips, but citizens were completely disinterested—yesterday’s events were still fresh in their minds, festering. Riots followed shortly after. Disoriented townspeople violently roamed the streets, projecting their condemnation of those “snobby colleges.” Slashed tires, burning buildings, broken Dreams, shattered Egos. Everything was collapsing.
Now, it was a week since The Decisions. Kate looked out the window, seeing a town that once showed great promise, poise, now almost lifeless, plagued by a demoralizing tragedy. Parts of the frontal lobe completely shut down, leaving thousands of people without power and unemployed. Athletes now struggled to concentrate, visibly uninterested in achieving any sort of outcome for Raj, only going through the motions half-heartedly.
“He’s on a three-test losing streak!” a man was overheard complaining to his friend.
“There’s just no focus. I mean, averaging Eight Missed Assignments this week? And all those fumbled questions? I can’t even watch anymore,” his friend responded. Kate watched from a distance, riding the bus to work, wondering if this madness would ever end.
At night, the lone sound of Kate’s wall clock ticking filled the room, ringing in her ears. Kate lay in bed unable to sleep, thinking about how she should’ve campaigned for higher funding in the Test Prep Plan. She felt sick. Sick with frustration. Sick of feeling unwanted. Sick of being the one let down.
Kate got out of bed and walked to the bathroom, where she splashed cold water onto her face. She looked in the mirror, seeing her sunken eyes and pale cheeks. She examined the marks on her face, particularly pronounced. The scar on her left cheek from the First Break Up of ‘09. The burn on her neck from the 2014 Chemistry Test wildfires. Kate looked hard at them, reminded of the pain this town had faced before.
Maybe there’s some sort of expiry to these moments, she thought. Or even a chance for recovery. Sick of the riots. Sick of the power outages. She was overwhelmed with the yearning for change, but maybe patience was the only option.
A faint moonlight peered through her window drapes. Kate walked to her kitchen and pulled a chair out from the counter. She sat there, waiting. The clock kept ticking.
To see more Gold Medal Portfolio recipients, past and present, visit the Eyes on the Prize series on the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers blog.
© Alliance for Young Artists & Writers/Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Used with permission.