By Zoe Shykind ’24
Blue Review, Mercersburg Academy’s annual literary arts publication that presents the school’s best prose, poetry, and visual art, has earned a Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Crown Award for the second year in a row. The Gold Crown, which is the organization’s highest honor, was awarded in the category of High School Print Literary Magazine, and Mercersburg’s publication rose to the top from more than 805 submissions.
“It is truly a community effort to build out the book, and this award should be celebrated together as a school,” says Kristen Pixler, one of the faculty advisers for the publication. “We could not do this without the contributions of our students and faculty. I am very proud of our editors and staff; they have worked hard to create a beautiful book that houses the creations of our community.”
For the award-winning publication, the expression of limbo was the cohesive theme tying the submissions together. The staff included Nate Austin ’23 (editor-in-chief for art, cover and thematic designer, and spread designer); Carina Cole ’22 (editor-in-chief for literary); cover and thematic designers Andrew Lebowitz ’24 and Anne Sehon ’25; art staff Hannah King ’23, Anne Sehon ’25, and Yael Hochberg ’25; and literary staff Mel Cort ’23, Talia Cutler ’23, Finn Sipes ’22, Avo Reid ’22, Reagan Houpt ’25, Kaiya Hoffman ’25, and Bob Hollis ’24. The faculty advisers were Pixler and Michele Poacelli P ’24, ’26.
“After all the hard work the staff members, editors, and faculty advisers put in last year, it feels extremely rewarding to receive our second Gold Crown award in a row!” says Austin. “It also feels unreal to have received a Gold Crown as an editor-in-chief. With this in mind though, there’s definitely been some added pressure while building this year’s book. Awards or not, Blue Review has been such a great time over the past three years on staff, and the past two as an editor. I’ve made friends, gained valuable experience in graphic design, learned how to manage a group, and it’s one of my favorite experiences I’ve had during my time at Mercersburg. My journey here truly wouldn’t be the same without it.”
“I love working with our staff and seeing them brainstorm, problem-solve, compromise, collaborate, and support one another,” says Pixler. “Building the theme is important reflective work that allows students to have the confidence to share their ideas in a safe space and have meaningful conversations. The whole process is a wonderful learning experience and the students are committed to creating a book that reflects the talents of our community.”
“While we’re honored to be recognized, the most important thing is that we make a book that the Mercersburg community can see itself in,” says Cort, who served on last year’s staff and has now assumed the role of this year’s literary editor-in-chief. “We want to represent the best of the best artistically as well as the general mindset on campus. If you have an opportunity to flip through last year's book, look for your experiences.”
The Columbia Scholastic Press Association, the nation’s largest school press organization, was founded almost 100 years ago. It is an international student organization whose goal is to unite student journalists and faculty advisers at schools and colleges and help them hone their craft. Mercersburg has published a literary journal every year since 1901, and the Blue Review model began in 1973, with visual arts introduced in 1993. The student body contributions are critiqued and evaluated by staff, and approximately 60 pieces are chosen for publication each year.
Pictured above: Mel Cort ’23 and Nate Austin ’23 present Head of School Quentin McDowell P ’25, ’27 with the Gold Crown Award.