Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

Eyes on the Prize: Joseph Leppo and Caleb Pan

Loribelle Lapaix  //  Apr 16, 2019

Eyes on the Prize: Joseph Leppo and Caleb Pan

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 Joseph Leppo (Jacksonville, FL) and Caleb Pan (Denver, CO).

Joseph Leppo

“Many of the pieces included in my portfolio explore themes of war and ruin. I have always been interested in war, both inspired by history and the artworks of Francisco Goya or Otto Dixie who portrayed sorrow with the effects of war quite brutally. Many of these pieces try to capture the grittiness of war, along with some of the effects of war. A few of them even incorporate some religious imagery to add to the subjects of war and ruin. . . . The main focus of my artwork is really to try and picture what the experience is like and analyze just how it feels to apart of one in a way. With the number of veterans who participated in armed conflicts such as WWII passing away, very soon new generations will come into this world who will have no experience with war or the looming shadow of retaliation (such as the Cold War era). I find it important that we must record and remember these wars so that we may never forget the lessons they have taught us.”

Caleb Pan

“Unanimous feedback has said my writing is distinctive. I know it’s not because I wear my heart on my sleeve or speak my mind without hesitation: I naturally imbue my writing with an authentic humanity before anything else. I am individualistic in principle and practice. Perhaps I’ve been unfairly gifted (and cursed) with an intricate history and personality, but I believe my strength as a writer resides in my ability to enjoy life as an adventure. The joy I have in sharing my writing is when a reader personally resonates and connects with me. By the time you finish reading all eight pieces, you should know me as a person.”

The Required Writing Supplement Section by Caleb Pan (an excerpt from humor category) 

Every student has a unique life experience and a set of circumstances by which they are shaped and influenced. Your background may have been shaped by family history, cultural traditions, race, ethnicity, religion, politics, income, ideology, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Reflect on a time when you had to relate to someone whose life experience was very different from your own. How did you approach the difference? If put in a similar situation again today, would you respond differently? If so, how? (650 words limit)

When I was in third grade, I was picked as part of a team to represent my school at a brain bowl. My team only placed second, which is why I did not include it on my application.

I befriended a participant from another school, who I will call Throckmorton to preserve racial and ethnic ambiguity. Throckmorton was a Muslim, indicated by a pinback button he wore that read “I am a Muslim.” At the time, I wore a handmade LEGO cross necklace (with a rare barbed-wire ring accessory as an attached piece to represent the crown of thorns which I was very proud of). He was certainly different, but he liked LEGOs too, so he was a cool kid.

The host school provided pre-made lunches with no exchangeable options. Unfortunately for Throckmorton, the main course was a ham sandwich. He felt bad for wasting food by throwing out the ham, but I intervened to absolve his conscience. In my theological opinion, a nice perk of Christianity over the other Abrahamic faiths is that we’re allowed to eat whatever we want. So to emulate the self-sacrifice and love of Christ, I offered to eat it for him.

“Wait! God lets me eat ham!”

Throckmorton perked up and exclaimed, “You’re a good friend!”

After the brain bowl, Throckmorton introduced me to his parents. Before I could introduce him to my parents, he had to go and I never saw him again.

If I were in a similar scenario today, I would also eat someone’s food in the Lord’s Name. Amen.

Please briefly explain and elaborate on an extracurricular activity or work experience that you were unable to include in your application. (200 word limit)

One of my most beloved memories is of waking one spring morning, fully refreshed and to the chirping of birds. It has been a while since either has happened.

I have noticed a cultural and byzantine leaderboard for sleep deprivation. I hypothesize contestants use hours of lost sleep to approximate their fortitude. The most prestigious claim I have heard came from a classmate who allegedly stayed awake for seventy-two consecutive hours by instilling his bloodstream with caffeine and Xanax. He eventually dropped the class – he’s probably dead.

For my entire life, I have been an activist opposing this disillusioned award system. I boast an average contribution of 8 hours/day, 7 days/week, 52 weeks/year for over fifteen years. Admittedly, it has been difficult in recent years with other lesser commitments conflicting with my participation, but I plan to continue my passionate work into higher education.

I am dedicated to sleep because it embodies the inevitability of imperfection. I accept the necessities of resting and revitalizing are quintessential to true satisfaction. To sleep is to take care of yourself and not to run a race to nowhere.

I wrote this at 2 A.M.


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: JOSEPH LEPPO, Death of a Soldier, Drawing & Illustration. Image in body: JOSEPH LEPPO, Resting Infantry, Drawing & Illustration.