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19 Students Earn Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

A total of 19 Mercersburg Academy students have been honored in the 2023 South Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition, which is part of the nation’s longest-running, most prestigious recognition program for creative teens.

Work by Mel Cort ’23, Elise Gao ’26, Dayoung Kim ’23, Kelsey Li ’26, Indira Moshi ’24, Jae Young Oh ’25, Sean Qin ’25, Ruby Shang ’24, and Iseo Yun ’24 earned Gold Key awards, with one entry by Gao and two entries by Cort designated American Voices nominees, and an entry by Kim designated an American Visions nominee, the highest regional honors presented by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. All nine of these individuals will advance to compete for awards at the national level; other award-winning work by Mercersburg students garnered Silver Key and honorable mention awards.

“Many students were already familiar with Scholastic and were eager to put forth work they had developed on their own or in classes,” said Michele Poacelli, English department head and director of the Writing Center. “To polish submissions, some writers utilized the Writing Center, and it was amazing to work with them because they were so invested in the process of fine-tuning. Every word choice and turn-of-phrase mattered to them.”

Students submitted work in late November and early December, after they received an email sent to the student body about the contest.

“Scholastic provides a platform for student art and writing, elevating teen voices,” said Poacelli P ’24, ’26. “It recognizes and affirms students and encourages them in their craft. When work is awarded outside of the Mercersburg community, students understand that their art and writing is objectively strong and has objective merit.”

The regional contest results mark another excellent outcome for the Mercersburg Academy community, noted Kristen Pixler P ’26, arts faculty member. 

“I am so proud of our creative community and the effort our students and educators put into their artistic lives,” Pixler said. “This competition is not only a reminder of the importance and meaning the arts have in our community but also across our region, nationally, and globally.”

Sydney Caretti P ’24, ’26, arts faculty and director of galleries at Mercersburg, notes that past recipients of the Scholastic awards include Ken Burns, Steven King, Sylvia Plath, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Zac Polsen, and Kay Walking Stick. 

“It's incredibly wonderful for their hard work, skill and passion to be acknowledged as on par with past recipients,” Caretti said. “I’m hoping they forever see and use this accolade as fuel to their creative fire.”

Gold Key awards

  • Cort won three awards for poetry: “Detritus” and “Housewarming Smoke,” both of which were named American Voices nominees, and “Audio Absurdism.” 

  • Gao won for science fiction and fantasy, “The Gift Freely Given,” which also was named an American Voices nominee.

  • Kim won five awards: two for sculpture, “Super-Baby,” which also was named an American Visions nominee, and “(re)Place;” one for art portfolio, “Paradigm Shift;” one for painting, “Window of the Past;” and one for film and animation, “(re)Place.” 

  • Li won for personal essay and memoir, “An Unnamed Rose.” 

  • Moshi won for critical essay, “A System Destined to Kill Me.” 

  • Oh won for science fiction and fantasy, “A Screen that Smiled.”

  • Qin won two awards for photography for “China” and “Human Soul.”

  • Shang won for a short story, “Voices.”

  • Yun won for a painting, “New Human Species.” 

Silver Key awards

  • Cort won two awards: one for poetry, “Roadkill Rot,” and one for critical essay, “The City Lights of Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.”

  • Talia Cutler ’23 won two awards for flash fiction: “Crossroads” and “The End is Near.”

  • Kim won for sculpture, “Shelling In.”

  • Sophie Sun ’25 won for mixed media, “A Familiar Way to Die.”

  • Holden Walker ’23 won for a painting, “The Boys’ Garden.”

  • Cocona Yamamoto ’25 won for mixed media, “Come With Me.”

Honorable Mention awards

  • Sihyeon Bae ’24 won three awards for her photography: “Shopping Carts,” “Newspapers,” and “Erasing My Darkness With My Lights.”

  • Bauhinia Chen ’26 won for her digital art, “Docile.”

  • Cort won for a writing portfolio, “Self Portrait: Second Edition.”

  • Ivan Dwyer ’24 won for science fiction and fantasy, “Chips and Parts.”

  • Gao won for two short stories: “Red River” and “Passerby.” 

  • Reagan Houpt ’25 won for a critical essay, “Chewing, Chewing, All Day Long.” 

  • Renee Jin ’26 won for digital art, “Shattered Porcelain.”

  • Qin won three awards for photography: “Snowwalk,” “The Glare,” and “Brotherhood.”

  • Sun won two awards for drawing and illustration: “A Balanced Meal” and “Infections.”

  • Yun won three awards: one for painting, “Identify Polarization;” one for film and animation, “Anesthesia and Analgesia;” and one for digital art, “Dance Festival.”

  • Hongyu Jasmine Zhu ’23 won two awards for photography: “Looking Outward,” and “Foliage, Fissure, Feather.”

Last year, 14 Mercersburg students were recognized in the 2022 South Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

Pictured: "The Glare," a photograph by Sean Qin '25 won an honorable mention in the 2023 South Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition.

See more of the winning art at this link.