Delaware High Schoolers Heading to Carnegie Hall (for poetry and fiction!)

Winning students l to r: Mariya Tacheva, Katherine Bobyak, Julie Griswold, Ruth Irungu, Christie Mumley, Sophia Zhao, Ella Trembanis, Lawson Schultz and Jesse Roy

Some of Delaware’s brightest high school minds were recognized with top awards at this year’s Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards ceremony in Wilmington, with four of them heading to national honors at New York’s Carnegie Hall next month.

Sophia Zhao, a senior at Charter School of Wilmington, received the highest honor at Saturday’s celebration. Her Gold Medal Portfolio is one of only eight such award-winning writing portfolios in the nation.

Other Gold Medal winners included Sanford senior Nithya Gadde, Mariya Tachevaof Cab Calloway School of the Arts, and Iris Hwang, a junior at St. Andrews School in Middletown. Each received Gold Medals for individual works of writing at the award ceremony at the DuPont Country Club on May 11th.


Organizers say the American Voice Medal which Sanford’s Gadde received for her personal essay/memoir is especially noteworthy. 

Sanford School senior Nithya Gadde received the American Voice Medal for her personal essay/memoir

“The American Voice Gold Award is roughly the same as a Best in Show Award, and we offer a special congratulations to Nithya Gadde, who also could not join us today at the awards ceremony,” Betsy Greer, Diamond State Branch Coordinator of the National League of American Pen Women of Delaware.

With hundreds of writing submissions to consider, Greer explains that the final decision for regional American Voice Gold winners rests at the national level.

“We received 527 entries in the Delaware writing region, from which our jurors picked 37 for Gold Key Certificates.  A second round of judging identified their top 5 from these 37.  These 5 works were then were judged at the national level to pick the top American Voice individual work from our region,” said Greer.

Eleven Delaware high schoolers awarded for exceptional writing

This year, 11 Delaware high schoolers were recognized for their exceptional writing and named as part of the 2019 National Award Recipients. Four of those students received awards for two or more works.

Julie Griswold, a silver medal recipient, is a rising junior at the Tatnall School, with a passion for creative writing. She is a writer for her high school’s literary magazine and a contributor to a local paper in Delaware.

“I’m very honored to have won this award today. My mom encouraged me to submit, and I’m so glad I did,” said Griswold.

Griswold and her fellow award winners have an exemplified passion for writing, and the majority of these students want to continue down the creative-writing path in the future.

“I’d love to write poetry as a career, but it’s difficult to make money. People just don’t take it seriously enough. Programs like these show young-writers, who love to write, that it’s possible to be rewarded for creativity and people do care,” Griswold said.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are the country’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for teens in grades 7-12. There are 100 branches of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards nationwide, each encouraging and fostering young teen’s creativity.

This year, students submitted nearly 340,000 works of writing and artwork nationwide, which were evaluated by local juror panels. Students in Delaware submitted more than 500 pieces this year for consideration. The highest graded pieces were also evaluated by a jury panel in New York City, which selected the final awarded recipients.

Scholarship for Charter School of Wilmington’s Sophia Zhao

Zhao received a $10,000 academic scholarship and an additional $1,000 for her writing teacher.

Alina Caulfield, a University of Delaware junior and an intern at the Diamond State Branch and past silver-medal recipient, said she is proud and inspired by Zhao’s accomplishment. “Ten-thousand dollars is a lot of money to put towards college. The fact that the Awards offer that amount just shows how much they care about the students,” Caulfield said. 

The four Delaware Gold Medalists will join other honorees at a national ceremony and benefit dinner on June 6th. The celebration is one of the most admired, young creative-writer award ceremonies in the country, according to Greer.

“It’s a very exciting experience for these kids. Carnegie Hall? That’s pretty incredible,” said Greer. “In fact, in years past, they’ve gotten names like Meryl Streep and Amy Schumer for the key-note speakers.”

The students in the photo (left to right) are:

  • Mariya Tacheva – Gold Medal – Personal Essay/Memoir – Cab Calloway School of the Arts
  • Katherine Bobyak – Gold Medal – Art – Cab Calloway School of the Arts
  • Julie Griswold – Silver Medal – Poetry – Tatnall School
  • Ruth Irungu – Silver Medal – Science Fiction Fantasy – Appoquinimink High School
  • Christie Mumley – Padua Academy
  • Sophia Zhao – Gold Medal Portfolio – $10,000 Scholarship from Scholastic – Silver Medal portfolio for Art – Charter School of Wilmington
  • Ella Trembanis – Silver Medal  – Poetry – Alfred G. Waters Middle School
  • Lawson Schultz – DFVA Scholarship – Newark Charter High School
  • Jesse Roy – Silver Medal – Critical Essay – Newark Charter High School

Full list of students awarded for written work at the 2019 Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards:

Juliana Castillo                Silver Medal                      Critical Essay                                        Home School

Nithya Gadde                    Gold Medal                        Personal Essay/ Memoir                   Sanford School

Nithya Gadde                       American Voice Medal     Personal Essay/ Memoir                   Sanford School

Julie Griswold                 Silver Medal                       Poetry                                                     Tatnall School

Iris Hwang                        Gold Medal                         Short Story                                            St. Andrew’s School

Iris Hwang                           Gold Medal                         Poetry                                                     St. Andrew’s School

Ruth Irungu                     Silver Medal                       Science Fiction/Fantasy                     Appoquinimink High School

Simi Olurin                       Silver Medal                      Critical Essay                                        Tower Hill School

Simi Olurin                          Silver Medal                       Personal Essay/ Memoir                   Tower Hill School

Jesse Roy                           Silver Medal                      Critical Essay                                        Newark Charter Sr High School

Mariya Tacheva              Gold Medal                        Personal Essay/ Memoir                   Cab Calloway School of the Arts

Brady Thompsom          Silver Medal                      Journalism                                            Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences

Ella Trembanis                 Silver Medal                    Poetry                                                      Alfred G. Waters Middle School

Sophia Zhao                       Gold Medal                     Poetry                                                       Charter School of Wilmington

Sophia Zhao                           Silver Medal                   Poetry                                                       Charter School of Wilmington

Sophia Zhao                           Gold Medal                     Senior Writing Portfolio                      Charter School of Wilmington


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About the Contributor

Ashley Miller

Ashley Miller

Ashley Miller is a rising junior in the University of Vermont Honors College. She is the senior sports editor of her school newspaper, a journalist at The Hinesburg Record (Burlington, VT), and a writer for the National Hemp Association.

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