Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

Eyes on the Prize: Haoran Xu and Sandra Chen

Loribelle Lapaix  //  Apr 10, 2019

Eyes on the Prize: Haoran Xu and Sandra Chen

The 2019 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards recently recognized 16 high school seniors who received the program’s highest national honor, the Gold Medal Portfolio, which includes a $10,000 scholarship.

Throughout April and May, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to identify students with exceptional artistic and literary talent and present their remarkable work to the world through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, will highlight two Gold Medal Portfolio recipients on their blog. This week, they are celebrating the work of Haoran Xu (Ashburnham, MA) and Sandra Chen (Pleasanton, CA).

Haoran Xu

“I seek evolution in human history and cultural legacy. From the Chinese cultural evolution to industrialization and the demise of the authenticity of faith, there lies an irony in human endeavor. Yet the merit, as well as the comical aspects of human society, continues to shape our understanding of the world. So I take the chance to find the future of architecture based on historic social structures and to express individualism in the context of concrete jungles called cities.”

Sandra Chen

“This portfolio is both a reflection and a call to action. I hope (w)om(e)n promotes greater empathy and understanding, encouraging readers to consider the complexities of the young female experience on a deeper, more personal level. Moreover, in the current context of the #MeToo movement, I think female-driven stories are especially necessary to counter systemic societal inequalities. I hope my portfolio can play a small part in this change, helping young women empower one another and realize that their stories are just as real, valid, and deserving.”

two mothers, three daughters by Sandra Chen

i am pulled out the day my country is reborn.

the hospital reels in the quiet after the storm,

my cries for milk echoing through sterile walls,

echoing the tears of a nation ripped open by

two planes. it is the first day of healing, of

stitching up bleeding wounds like the thread

through my mother’s open abdomen.


six months later, my mother and i land in

shanghai. my swaddled body exchanges

arms, wrinkled palm grazing pearl cheeks.

for two years, ah bu takes me in, a foreign

baby in native land, skin too soft for smoke

and soil. i totter into her waiting hands,

copy her words in a tongue i will forget.


when i return to america, the shapes of

english letters tear my tongue. i practice

them with my mother’s lilted syllables until

they fall through my lips like wisps of air.

it is numbers that cut my gums, claw my teeth.

i shove each one down my throat and try not

to choke on falling edges, sharp and honed.


i learn to lean on words, twist them in

my mind, slot them on the page. i grasp

shards of language in my hands until they

bleed, let my stained fingers stumble across

the board, hurtling black letters onto pale

screens. the rhythmic taps of nails and keys

settle in my bones like a quiet melody.


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.

Cover image: HAORAN XU, Floating City/Sky Village Project, Architecture & Industrial Design. Image in body: HAORAN XU, Chronicle of Humanity, Drawing & Illustration