CVHS Students Sweep the Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards, Winning 104 Awards

The Scholastic Art & Writing is a nationally recognized contest. Students from all over the United States compete and receive awards for their work. This program gives recognition to young aspiring artists and writers and provides students with scholarship opportunities. This year, 24 Carnegie students won a total of 104 awards in the Art and Writing category. Making Carnegie one of the most awarded high schools in the country. Get to know these amazing awardees and explore their works.

Asmita Ahuja

“A few of my submissions featured photography, an art that I’ve always admired. The ability to capture reality and meaningful moments within a creative photograph that can convey a powerful message fascinates me. To explore the art more deeply, I took Pre-AP Photography my sophomore year, and most of my photography submissions were inspired by techniques learned in that class. Most of those submissions incorporated messages of peace, imagination, and mindfulness.

Most of my submissions were pieces of writing ranging from poetry to critical essays and personal essays. Poetry has always seemed like an interesting form of writing to express emotions through. It wasn’t until I took Creative Writing Honors during my sophomore year that I realized the diverse forms and creative paths that poetry has to offer. My inspiration for my poetry submissions were based on experiences that I’ve had and emotions that allowed me to ponder deeply about how we interact with one another. Mental health and well-being is something I value, and it is important for us to communicate positive thoughts to not only others but also ourselves. A few poems covered the feelings of isolation, failure, and recovering from past hurtful words or people. In today’s world, many people feel like they are alone in their struggles because others always seem to be on the bright side of life, but one of my poems addressed how in most cases, we can’t see the full picture of what others are going through. Other poems explored the joy of spirituality, courage, and acceptance into a community of genuine people. All the poems uncovered the difficult yet promising path that one must walk on in order to discover who they truly are. My other entries, personal essays and critical essays, were about topics that I feel passionately about, ranging from animal rights to the secrets behind discovering ourselves and maintaining hard work in order to achieve success.

I was very nervous but also excited to open up my account on the day that the awards were released. I was beyond shocked to learn that all the writing pieces I submitted had received an award, including some of my photographs. I am very humbled and grateful to have my work recognized by Scholastics Art & Writing Awards and featured in Carnegie’s newspaper. It feels amazing to know that someone reading my submissions was able to gain the same depth of emotion that I had while creating them. I’m excited for all that future writing endeavors have to offer!”

Asmita is currently a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School. Her family comes from India, and she lives in Houston with her parents and younger brother. From a young age, Asmita has enjoyed writing as a hobby, which has grown to become a talent that allows her to express herself creatively. In order to hone her writing skills, she is involved with expressing her works through Scholastics, co-leading Carnegie’s Creative Writing club, and co-founding Carnegie’s literary magazine. Her other hobbies include baking, photography, reading, playing the violin, practicing meditation, playing tennis, exploring science, and spending time with friends & family.

Asmita recevied 15 awards, and 4 gold keys in photography, poetry, personal essay, and critical essay.

Photography Entries

Writing Entries

No, I am not sitting in an isolated corner
constantly staring at the large crowd
of people who are laughing and sharing gentle banter
and yes, my ears slowly lean into the conversation and yes,
the talks seem to be lovely to be a part of but-
no, I can’t notice the few inches of empty space between the two of you
because all I could ever imagine is being able to stand
right there, sharing that banter too as I would add
to the lovely conversation with my own tales and-
no, my feet don’t slowly tip-toe towards that space
and complete the crowd before another person
almost as desperate as me to blend in
takes the empty spot- my only chance and-
no, my shoulders don’t slowly hunch
as I try to make myself disappear while staring
at each person’s perfect hair, glistening eyes, and harmonious voice which
is clearly being interjected with my incompetent features and-
no, my mouth doesn’t freeze as soon as everyone’s eyes stare
at my blank face, waiting for a sort of introduction about
how qualified I am to be able to stand in this space
which was once unoccupied and empty and-
no, my cheeks don’t begin to flush with redness
as awkward glances are exchanged between people while
I build scenarios in my head and-
no, I don’t talk to myself about how
I could’ve shined in the moment if I was courageous enough to
mention those several qualifications that I knew I had but
wasn’t sure if they were enough to mention and-
no, I won’t say no if I was asked to join for
some sort of elite gathering or party that
I once dreamed of being able to be a part of and-
no, I wouldn’t spend hours in my closet the night before trying
to find the right outfit in which I
won’t look too thin or too large
won’t look too conservative or too revealing
won’t look too fancy or too casual and-
no, I probably won’t find the right outfit in
the end of my long search and I definitely
won’t be pounded with a mix of anxiety
and excitement as I approach the same crowd the
night later and-
no, I won’t talk as loudly as
I do when my brother yanks at my chocolate at home or
I won’t laugh as cheerfully as
I do when my mother makes the most hilarious observations while
we walk through the market and-
no, it didn’t hurt my heart when I saw
each person of the crowd that I once
dreamt of standing in slowly get up
to leave without waiting to say goodbye and-
no, I don’t ask anyone to come back since I know that
if I try to be
me, the person
I am with myself, I-
may end up in-
that same, dreadful and-
uncomfortably familiar
isolated corner.
It’s early morning as I step into a familiar building
One in which I used to once feel so lost and hopeless
One which engulfed me with strings of anxiety
One which I was afraid to call home.
I glance around and notice little groups of people
Hovering over each other in deep conversation and
Their chatter fills the room with echoing voices
Of which mine is not one of them.
Suddenly,I feel my hand being pulled
By the hand of another, young and chirpy girl.
It was like a fortunate stroke of serendipity
And my feet glided across the marble flooring.
The lavender fragrance of flowers filled the atmosphere
And suddenly gentle beat music began to play
While another hand pulled me into a circle
That kept growing and growing.
People began to dance and
I joined them with my hands in the air,
My feet twirling around the smooth surface
Without a care of which moves I was making.
Smiles were sent my way as
Several colorful lights began to turn on
And illuminate these beautiful moments in which
I felt so free.
Numerous dishes with sweets began
To pile into the room and we
All rushed over to get a taste
Of the sweet, deliciously melting, desserts.
My heart slowed down and
My eyes looked around to stop and notice.
Amidst the warmth of the colored lights,
Amidst the taste of the sweet chocolates
Amidst the gentle hold of hands
Amidst the soothing and soulful music
I felt like someone I hadn’t met in a while
I felt like me.
Each Monday morning, when the sun shines bright, it’s the
Beginning of another series of days, another week
Of piling several regrets each time after
I talk to you.
After every attempt at conversation has died,
I’ll choose to stop trying and retreat back to someone more familiar- myself.
I look into the eyes that you
Try to cover with glazes of peace that were
Soon washed away in
A vast ocean of regrets that you carried when you met my
Eyes. As if time was up and it was time to checkout
Of this thing called attempting life, a neverending, hopeless, crowd.
As I thought the memories were gathering together, little by little,
I realized that our wavering relation has become so old.
From when I was just a young lady
That glanced at another girl who
I had never seen nor met
Who soon lifted her eyes as well and glanced at my
Watering, grief-stricken eyes with a long stare.
Photographs must hold so many moments with
No recount of whether or not the
Moments that were filled not with happiness and joy, but with fear
Should be clicked permanently into the
Flimsy pieces of paper, which when looked at, lead to only a yearning
To be able to skip back in time and change every action I could think of.
I don’t think you remember a
Single-day during which I, a mere mortal,
Didn’t stare in your direction, wanting to be chosen.
Wanting to be given validation by
An impressive young woman, a
Girl whom I once treated like a god.
I still hold an aching feeling
Of someone who simply wanted to be herself
Without having to change
For anyone else. Painfully,
That aching heart was locked up behind a cell
In which she tried to get by
Without withering away her body’s each and every bone.
I wish that all those scars that you gave me disappeared into
Something lost and harder to grasp, like a
Submissive and intangible shadow.
I wish all those words that you threw at me were transformed into a
More soothing, beautiful and motivating laurel
That had no tinges of the feelings of regret and unacceptance stored inside you.
Oh, how I wish that the several moments that we spent in agony could be painted like a
Gracefully woven, everlasting and ever-shining constellation.
Each time I step in the building, it’s like
I see witches on brooms,
With hearts made of
Hard, unbreakable, and merciless steel.
Through the windows,I can see the
Never-ending and graceful droplets of snow,
My hands can feel the soft snow flying with the wind
Unable to feel the warmth that the building once had.
The women, on brooms, had swept
Each and every sign away of the
Ominous and cursed winter
That took place in this building, on York Street.
All the new residents of the
Street which was lined with a house after house
Never noticed that the central building was
Once a place where people’s sins were hooked.
The rise of another day led to the
Rise of a brighter sun,
After the darkness of the night had been sent
Farther and farther out.
The presence of the sins was faint,
The witches were soon replaced with deputies
Who were representatives of
The sun’s glorious and healing heat.
York Street became the place where
Joyful people rode
Their bikes while humming along with the
Soothing melodies of the golden bird.
Each man that walked down York Street would stare at the
Odd building that had a lurking silence,
And without courage, he would keep his tongue-tied
Until he finally passed the several houses and reached his.
The street which was once flooded with ample-plodding
And aimless steed,
Was now the light of the
City that’s like a barren field, with one ripe apple.
The long-forgotten sins of York Street were now buried in
The very bottom of the
Single building’s cold and locked-up cellar
Where they felt, in the winter’s cold, snug.
No one remembers what York Street once was
Time and bloodshed has erased it all.
The hidden secrets and sins of the
Mysterious street disappear one by one.
Despite the several memories people have, not one will recall that
York Street was once a sinister lane where women, with brooms, played.
Her name is Leanora Smith
It flows like
A soothing melody
Like soft pearls being tossed gingerly in the ocean
She walks down the hallway with such confidence
Her head high in the sky
Perfectly poised and complimented
By her rich golden locks hanging halfway down her back
Rings on her fingers match gracefully with her polished nails
Her arms are heavily clothed
Submerged in a glistening crimson sweater
She walks with a pleasant rhythm in her feet
The role model for several timid adolescents tip-toeing behind her
Afraid they might completely embarrass themselves
Her smile is almost plastered onto her face
Always there
Bright and complete in a sublime way
The tips of her fingers scurry along in every class
On her calculator
On her pencil
While flipping through the pages of her books
While swiping through her grades and admiring the flashing green
That most students could only aim for
The twinkle in her eyes is vibrant as she makes another post on her account
A picture
One with her admirable and obedient puppy
Or one while gazing at one of the most expensive stores in the city’s mall
Leonora Smith skips along the glossy floors of her high school as she exits the building
The building where thousands admire her beauty
Her grace
Her smile
The tips of her fingers roll the knob of her door
Which creaks open and reveals an empty home
Lacking the affectionate welcome of a mother and a father
Lacking the light of hope and happiness
The smile on her face drops as if it had been forced to hang for several hours
The whimpers of a small puppy can be heard near the velvet green couch
The couch on which a grandmother is dosed in a deep sleep
The couch near which a radio repeating the oldest songs has been left on
The tips of her fingers swipe on the lock of her room as she shuts herself
Within four bare walls and a cheap dresser shoved in the corner
She gently places her hands on her golden locks
They come off within minutes and she stares at her bare head
The pupils of her eyes stare at the small bristles of black hair on her bald head
Her mouth lets out a gentle sigh as her toes tip over a box
A box of various medicines
Inching near her bed
She carefully removes her crimson sweater to reveal
A wrinkled shirt
A shirt which has been worn several times
The sweater is placed carefully inside her closet
Needing to be returned to a faithful friend
From whom several sweaters have been borrowed
She grabs her books and plops down on her springless mattress
A mattress which has been sat on for several hours
Hours of reading through the same chapters again and again
Until a smooth head falls onto a pillow while the book remains opened nearby
And the lights blackout in the room of a young girl
Her name is Leonora Smith
And it feels heavy when it is said
Holding an enduring emptiness
Through the window of an overused van can be seen a young girl,
Who’s fingertips continuously poke at the soccer ball
In her hand as she imagines the roaring crowd
Which will glare at her as she prepares to make her kick.
She shivers at the thought of the millions of eyes
Following her each move and waiting for a spectacular moment.
She breathes each breath slowly while feeling each moment
Pass as the car comes to a halt and the young girl
Places her feet onto the concrete ground and shuts her eyes.
Her brown, curly hair wraps around her as she tightly embraces the ball
Which she will soon have to kick
Amidst a boiling and impatient crowd.
The young girl watches her parents mix into the crowd
And begins to imagine a possible moment
During which they will stare at the kick
And growl with disdain for the girl
Who could not guide the ball
To follow the direction of the people’s eyes.
The young girl walks towards the center of the field as she meets the eyes
Of her coach cheering along in the crowd.
She embraces the ball
One last time and faces the moment
Which will define the future of the girl
And the importance of the final kick
Her foot picks up momentum and makes a kick
As she avoids meeting with her vicious opponent’s eyes.
The worst nightmare of the girl
Comes to life and is followed by disapproving mumbles from the crowd.
Seconds pass and then minutes but the girl is stuck within that one moment
When her dreams were shattered before her because of a faulty ball.
The flustered girl lets her fingers grip tightly onto the soccer ball
Which she wishes she had never had to kick.
She wished she could forget that moment
During which tears began to form in her eyes
As she stared at the empty stadium which once held a crowd.
A crowd that was so dependent on one young girl.
She loathes each moment as tears of embarrassment flow from her eyes.
Her nails leave an engraved mark in the ball that she would no longer have to kick.
And never again would she stare into the eyes of a crowd that had such contempt for a young,
hopeless girl.
Let’s breathe
Let’s open our eyes
Eyes can bring worlds to life
Eyes have the power to see
See beyond the silent words
See beyond our differences
Differences are mixed parts of a whole
Differences are the colored petals of the same flowers
Flowers grow taller with gentle music
Flowers bloom brighter when grown with love
Love is such an unconditional bliss
Love allows us to vision beyond
Beyond the imperfect looks
Beyond the innumerable flaws
Flaws are a different way to look at perfection
Flaws cause people to create walls
Walls can protect us from our vulnerability
Walls can block others from hearing our voice
Voice is a form of expression
Voice is a reflection of you
You and I could go a long way
You and I need to reach out a hand
Hand for embracing imperfections
Hand for humanity
Humanity is a common religion
Humanity is a prayer for shared friendship
Friendship is precious
Friendship is a chance for revival
Revival is removing old scars
Revival is giving a chance to life
Life is precious and short
Life is meant to gather memories
Memories of togetherness
Memories of acceptance
Acceptance can be defining
Acceptance allows one to grow
Grow in their relations
Grow beyond the stereotypes
Stereotypes limit our potential
Stereotypes can confine our courage
Courage to change the world
Courage to help others rise
Dear meat lovers,
Eating is one of the most essential, refreshing, and meaningful parts of our day. It’s a chance to relish
delicious treats, connect with loved ones, and engage in thoughtful conversation. A large chunk of time
each day is spent at the table with a fork and knife in hand, yet how much time do you really take to dwell
on the meal in front of you? In today’s busy and fast-paced world, there is little time to discover the chain
of events leading to our present moment. The chain of souls who have suffered for us to be where we are.
The chain of tears, bloodshed, and pain that allows us to live with privilege. It’s time to pause, take a deep
breath, and open our eyes to the real world. In the U.S alone during the year 2020, 48 million animals
have been brutally killed for the sake of taste
. We live in a country that has fought a war for freedom, for
grace, and for liberty. But I want to ask you a question today: is everyone in this country free? A mother
should be able to embrace her child in the country of the free. A child should constantly have the support
of a mother in the country of the free. Love should be a right granted to all in the country of the free. This
is not the case. Thousands of mothers are ripped apart from their children each day as they are awaited by
the horrors of the slaughterhouse. Thousands of children are left in their suffering conditions, bewildered
about what the future holds. All animals, from the gentle cows to the innocent fish, are our fellow
creatures looking up to us for support and care. Our ability to protect those who are weaker and
vulnerable and our ability to show compassion is the very essence of humanity, and choosing to be
indifferent to the suffering of a soul is the very essence of inhumanity.
In a world that preaches liberty, we cannot turn a blind eye to the most inhumane form of slavery.
Countless people feel pride in their higher intellect in comparison to animals, but they are rather less
intelligent. Feeling and emotion are more powerful than intellect, and it is what truly holds the morality of
our world. The question is not whether animals can talk or reason. The question is.. can they suffer?
Despite the differences that divide all living things in this world, there is one profound commonality that
binds us together: the need to be loved. Just like us, animals have feelings and the ability to feel pain,
suffering, happiness, and love. We live in an ironic world- people are constantly fighting for their own
rights while simultaneously encroaching the rights of others. Animals are born with the same rights as us
to live freely in this world with security and safety. In fact, it is our moral duty, as creatures with higher
intellect, to protect our fellow beings in a way that they can count on us.
All great wars have always won after small battles. Likewise, if we begin to take small steps, then change
can be created for the lives of animals. We shouldn’t underestimate our role as consumers or think that
only those dealing directly with the animal’s life are the ones to be held responsible. No. During a
burglary, the assistant of the thief is considered as guilty as the thief himself. In the same way, consumers
that continue to pay for meat are encouraging a larger, selfish natured industry. You can be the change.
Grab a salad, plate of pasta, a few fruits, or a loaf of bread. Learn new recipes and try new dishes. Do
what you must during these dire times in order to save humanity from a dark future devoid of empathy,
compassion, and kindness. Speak up against violence and speak up for animals in the same way that you
would if someone mistreated your family. Because they are family. And family means love.
The next time that you sit down to take a bite of a steak or a hamburger, pause and ask yourself: Is the
taste of your meal worth a life?
God always loves us,
But it is us who have forgotten.
He had chosen the best and thus,
Was disheartened when we chose a world that was rotten.
It is us who placed before Him a bet
That without Him, we could create joy.
God knew it was us who would regret
Being without Him and trying to enjoy.
To fulfill our stubborn desire
He crafted a new creation.
Earth, water, air, ether, and fire
Became the seeds of this formation.
“Are you sure you want to leave?”
He asked while holding our hand.
“Father, trust that we will neither forget nor deceive,”
We promised God before setting foot on this land.
The wonders of this world caught our eyes,
Something God warned us to be aware of.
And when evil in our mind began to rise,
We started to lose the meaning of love.
Fellow brothers and sisters were at war
Behind the divisions of race.
Kindness was difficult to restore
Once we let humanity lose its grace.
We turned the blue sky into black
And devastated the beauty of the seas.
Neither were animals saved from our attack
Nor were the sinless flowers and trees.
Now we sit in our destruction
Crying out for acceptance and peace,
But if still we are reluctant to follow His instruction
Our painful separation will only increase.
Our promise to God was broken
When we watered the seed of hate.
Forgotten were the divine words He had spoken
And the pathway leading to Heaven’s gate.
To revive the dormant love in our heart,
He visited us in endless forms.
Through books, prophets, and art,
He tries to free us from our storms.
Neither is our turmoil real
Nor does it need to last forever.
If we allow God’s embrace to make us heal,
We can cross over this difficult endeavor.
God always loves us,
But it is us who have forgotten.
He had chosen the best and thus,
Was disheartened when we chose a world that was rotten.
He’s waiting for us with a forgiving heart
He’s waiting for us with open arms
He’s waiting for us
To come back
Imagine that you are climbing several steps of a staircase, and at a certain point you
begin to catch your breath. Your legs ache miserably, and it seems as if going any
further is impossible. Just as you are about to lose every strand of hope, a glaring light
of sunlight peaks from above you. With a gleaming smile and racing heartbeat, you
think to yourself: I’ve made it! However, your excitement is quickly drawn off as you rub
your eyes and realize that the several endless stairs still ahead of you are outlined by
the light’s rays. Another name for this seemingly endless and exhausting staircase is
success. J.J Watt, a famous athlete, once said, “Success isn’t owned. It’s leased and
rent is due every day.” In today’s fast paced and modern world, success is an
achievement that everyone is running towards, but few realize that success is not a
destination. Rather, success is a journey. True success is putting in every bit of effort
each day and improving oneself to become a better person. We cannot think that by
achieving one day of recognition that we have achieved success. The real challenge in
any field of our life is to sustain that success for many, many years to come, and in
order to do that, we have to pay our rent. The art of upholding one’s success by paying
the required rent each day largely consisted of our determination and effort, wisdom to
make compassionate decisions, and innovation to constantly improve.
One of the keys to upholding our success for a long period of time is unflinching
determination and hardwork. Each day, it may seem tempting to give up on our
aspirations and dreams as they seem to become difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, we
must never stop giving our best efforts to the field that we are trying to succeed in. One
cannot sustain their success by hiding in the dark and waiting for opportunities to keep
coming to them. Opportunities are out there, and we always have to take the extra step
towards them. As a student, employee, family member, or citizen, one must be bold to
take the extra step to lend a helping hand, advocate for change, or work with team
members to create something whole. Even more important than taking the extra step is
to take that step with the fire in our hearts to keep moving forward: determination. Many
successful people have faced countless difficulties to reach where they are now, but it is
their firm faith and never ending hope that has carried them. A prime example of this is
J.J Watt, an athlete who many see as the epitome of hard work. Since a young age,
Watt had the grit and passion to be successful in whatever he does. Each early morning
and late night, he was hard at work practicing football and improving himself from the
player he was the day before. Meaningful efforts, hours of toil, and grit is truly what has
risen Watt to the top. Today, Watt is one of the most recognized athletes and a pride for
Texans. Even in our daily lives, we are surrounded by the prime examples of people
who never give up despite how difficult it may become: mothers. They say that behind
every successful man there’s a woman, and I believe that mothers often play a role in
being that person. The mothers in the world who are truly successful in raising children
who are not only materially advanced but also kind at core have been through much
pain and challenges. Sleepless nights, constant self doubt about their potential, a
negative body image, the juggle of several household chores, and exhaustion are only a
few of the daily struggles that mothers hide behind their warm smile and affection. The
driving force for such mothers is true passion for their children and hopes for the future.
In order to uphold success, we must constantly remind ourselves why we started and
then keep moving forward. Throughout the journey of success, failure is something that
will inevitably try to push us down, but we have to believe in ourselves and dream big.
Walt Disney, who is known around the world for his talented art, was rejected several
times by many people and was told that his work can never make a difference. Today,
Disney’s work continues to shape American childhood and inspire the best in people. It
is true that each and every one of us can be anything that we want to, but it is
impossible without putting in tremendous amounts of work and holding onto faith for the
While continuous efforts are a heavy portion of the rent we must pay in order to
continue succeeding, another equally important aspect is having the wisdom to make
compassionate decisions. It is important to understand that no matter how many awards
and positions one achieves, they are useless without having a kind heart that can share
these gifts. The warm wishes and blessings that we receive from those around us play
an integral role in helping us in our path to success. After all, what is the point of living in
a large mansion if you are living all alone? And what is the point of driving in the most
expensive car if you have no loved ones to go and visit? On the journey of success,
many people disregard those who have been there for them through thick and thin.
Most people forget to give back to the community where they started from. These acts
of forgetfulness and a desire to keep all of one’s earnings and fruits of success for one’s
self is the very seed of selfishness. Success cannot stay long in the lives of people
whose hearts lack compassion and are only filled with selfishness. When we don’t pay
our share of gratitude back to the world, success crawls out of our life without a
warning. Real achievement is being able to love others and being loved by those
around you. The successful people today are only content because they are loved for
their generosity and the person that they are. Bill Gates, the cofounder of Microsoft, is
one of the wealthiest people in the world. Yet, he gives back to his community through
several initiatives focusing on global health, education, poverty, agriculture, and relief.
The respect he has earned is meaningful and deserves praise because of how well he
has incorporated the needs of others into his journey on the path of success. On a
broader level, leaders and presidents are truly loved by their citizens when they have
compassion to address problems at hand, such as safety and freedoms, while
upholding values of humanity. Wisdom to give back to our community and help the
sprouting dreams of those who are only starting their journey is what will keep us entact
on our own path towards success.
In addition to continuous efforts and compassion, we must create an innovative mindset
for ourselves in order to fully pay the dues of what success entails and requires. A
learning mindset that is open to improvements and new ideas is very important to
ensure success. If we are not open to new ideas and ways to continue our passion,
then we won’t be able to make a complete impact. Real impact can be made in the
world and a legacy can be created if we take the advice of the wise people that we meet
and keep improving our approach till it reaches the best of our potential. Athletes must
discover several approaches to practice their sport, people to practice with, equipment
that works best for them, and define proper schedules that can make them successful
on the court. Students must constantly revise their methods for note taking and
studying, so they can improve their learning techniques and achieve higher scores.
Even in history, we can see that several successful people had to innovate in order to
succeed. Isaac Newton, a famous and world changing scientist, failed several times and
had to try many approaches before he could successfully create theories that would
define science as we know it today. Success requires an innovative mindset that is
willing to improve, create, and explore.
The words of J.J Watt may seem simple but have an abundance of true wisdom and
meaning. We have passions that drive us throughout the day and throughout our lives,
and after achieving certain goals, we may think that we have succeeded. However,
success is a never-ending journey on which we constantly discover who we are and the
difference that we can make in the world. Sustaining our success requires us to meet
several criterias that can keep moving us forward towards our dreams and aspirations.
Hardwork and laborious days will carry us towards a future that we can be proud of.
Determination and faith in ourselves and those who are there to support us will carry us
to a future that we can be proud of. Compassion and wisdom to give back to our
community and loved ones while upholding the values of humanity will carry us towards
a future that we can be proud of. Innovation to improve ourselves and to never be afraid
to take the advice of others will carry us towards a future that we can be proud of.
Meaningful success achieved and maintained through the cultivation of these golden
qualities will carry us towards a future where our efforts can leave a legacy to change
the world for the better.
The young woman continued to tiptoe
Through the vast field as she slid her hands
Gingerly above the blossoms surrounding
Her and growing taller than she.
The vines desperately hugged
Her bruised legs which
Could no longer tiptoe
Further into the field of hypocrisy.
Reaching above her towards ether,
The woman stretches beyond
The choking blossoms
That she had once planted.
Thorned blossoms raveled up her thigh,
Reaching for her soul
Which was empty with scars
From years of late-night tiptoeing.
Night and day she had watered
The buds which were now taller than she
Dreaming of a day they would bloom
To adorn her own silk hair.
Dress in scraps and hair entwined
Blossoms slithering at a faster rate
Squeezing out her every breath
Into the winter’s crisp air.
Futile hopes began to sink
In the heart of the young girl
Abandoned in an empty field
Which was once a land of hopeful buds.
Which was once a land of blossoms
Was now an empty field surrounding
A once effervescent young woman
Who was now nothing but nothingness.

Chloe is a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School. This was her fifth year submitting to Scholastics. Over the years she has submitted in fashion, mixed media, writing, but recently she fell in love with photography.

Chloe received 15 awards, 3 of those were gold keys in the categories of photography and digital art.


Photography Entries

Chloe Beaudreau

“What inspired me to submit was my history of submitting to Scholastics. Each year I’ve submitted several photographs, and it’s always exciting to see what the judges like. Also, during the Fall I was so bored being at home that it inspired me to start taking more photos, simple photos I could capture around the house.

After receiving the awards, I felt surprised. I submitted 16 photos and received a mix of honorable mentions, silver keys, and gold keys. While I was happy to receive three gold keys, I was surprised by what the judges liked. Overall, I was relieved to receive any awards at all. I submitted at 11:59 the night it was due and I thought most of my photos didn’t go through.”


Shriya Bengre

“My inspiration for submitting the gold-key awarded “Separate But One” was to represent how close I am with my family, and even with our differences, we are still very similar. This was represented in the photo because different parts of our faces were edited together to create a face that looks like a little bit of each of us. The inspiration behind silver-key awarded “Horizontal Shock” and honorable mention “Vertigo” was playing with different lighting to achieve an eccentric photo. The inspiration for “Vertigo” also showcases cultural jewelry and clothing. Finally, for my gold-awarded poem “Life of A…”, I wanted to talk about many different occupations but take on a twist in the writing.

After finding out that I had been recognized by receiving my two gold keys, a silver key, and honorable mention, I was overwhelmed with excitement because I had submitted pieces for Scholastic Art and Writing last year, but had not received any gold-keys then. The more work I have put into my pieces this year paid off and I am really happy about it!”

Shriya is a junior at Carnegie Vanguard Highschool. In her free time, she loves to draw with many mediums (such as Prisma colors, acrylic paint, and graphite) and do photoshoots that showcase her culture and artistic creativity. She is from India and is really passionate about her culture, so she loves adding cultural touches to her photoshoots. Along with this, she enjoys playing with different lighting in her photos. Other hobbies that she enjoys are both Hindustani and American singing, playing the piano, doing gymnastics, and spending time with family and friends!

Shriya received 4 awards, 2 of those in photography and poetry.

Photography Entries

Writing Entries

gymnast: doing the impossible with a contoured body, feeling pain only when descending stairs
swimmer: water is their life, yet they cannot fully reside in it
artist: inspiration blooms looking at a filled canvas, but a blank mind holding a empty canvas
doctor: working to save lives, but putting their life at risk while doing so
teacher: childhood spent learning to live, adulthood living to teach others
computer engineer: sitting at a 9-5 desk job, but creating life within a computer
firefighter: walking into fire to save people, while surrounded by the same fire themselves
ballerina: graceful and dainty on the outside, but strong to the core on the inside
singer: easily perfecting all the notes, but years of practicing to do so
actor: shape-shifting into any character given, but concealing who they are within
stay-at-home mom: people think she has an easy life, but she’s the hardest working of them all
fashion designer: their ideas are works in progress, ever changing as trends come and go
photographer: eyes in the viewfinder to capture moments, but never free to be in the moment
scientist: constantly finding solutions to problems that have countless complications
influencer: authenticity is what they strive for, but the public twists their words anyway
nurse: associated as the doctor’s shadow, but are healers compared to their associate scientists
mailman: constantly working to deliver messages, from the busiest cities to the remotest towns
architect: their imagination has no limits, which means their projects are never complete
pilot: taking people across to world to loved ones, while rarely seeing their own family
farmer: put in a great deal of work, but in the end it’s the hope that their crops don’t go bad
author: putting in months worth of writing, but criticism could end their dreams within seconds
illustrator: doodles beyond the limits of the mind, but never enough paper to put them on
musician: one in many songs become hits, some go down in history, while others get lost
chef: careful precision with each serving, it’s either admired or down in one swallow
model: charismatic down the walkway, pushing away the self consciousness
movie director: millions of dollars go into their works, but some still turn out flops
youtuber: the world is your stage, but its comes with haters and harsh critiques

Hagar is a sophomore who loves writing poetry in her free time.

Hagar received a silver key in poetry.

Writing Entries

I stand there thinking
I stare at my reflection
Reflection that shows a person
Reflection that seems depressing almost
Almost as if the person was shallow
Almost like a normal person
Person with a normal, short black messy hair, looking masculine
Person who wears glasses and has freckles all over their face
Face that reads a look of loneliness
Face that seems like a cartoon
Cartoon where the main character is me
Cartoon that people hate the main character
Character who is always confused
Character who is anonymous
Anonymous to the people around them
Anonymous to their surroundings
Surroundings where people say “are you a boy or a girl?”
Surroundings that are unknown
Unknown to me
Unknown like me
Me, who isn’t a typical highschooler
Me, who is confused about themselves
“Themselves” isn’t normal
“Themselves” isn’t important
Important like “himself” or “herself”
Important to relate to others
Others who treat me like an outcast
Others who perceive me different
Different because I’m neutral
Different because I’m confused
Confused about my gender
Confused about my life
Life that is taken for granted
Life that people don’t want
Want to grow
Want to learn
Learn that it’s okay to be different
Learn that the world is changing
Changing for the better
Changing because of youth
Youth who relate to me
Youth who figure things out
Out where I want to be
Out to myself
Myself? No way!
Myself who’s pretty
Pretty, but lost
Pretty but confused
I walked into the classroom and sat down. There she was, the girl. Her eyes were
so beautiful, a deep ocean blue. Her hair was full of curls, flowing perfectly to her
shoulders. Her smile was so warm, so inviting. I said hi, and we started talking.
Since then, we would talk after class everyday. Eventually we became friends,
and eventually, we were closer than ever before. She was the sunshine peeking
out from the clouds, she was the island in the middle of the vast, empty ocean. I
loved her more than words can ever express. One day, I didn’t see her anymore.
She was no longer in the classroom, she was no longer in my classes. I miss the
fireworks in the night sky, the rainbow after the rain.
The very lovely
Girl is no longer present
Her memory gone
I sit at home
Class after class
In front of my laptop
The same routine
No motivation
I just sit and listen
I don’t absorb
I sit and wonder
Will I ever see her
Not on a computer screen?
One day she’s there
The girl
She turns on her camera
I see her gorgeous hair
I see her deep in thought
My rose in a field of tulips
My thoughts wander
Will I ever see her
Not on a computer screen?
I smile widely
She smiles back,
As if she saw me smiling
We talk again
I get her number
I wonder to myself
Will I ever see her
Not on a computer screen?
In the middle of class
In the middle of routine
Will I ever see her
Not on a computer screen?
As I lay on my carpet, staring at my ceiling, I yearn. I yearn to run with her in a
field of flowers, the sun high up in the bright blue sky, holding her hand,
screaming and laughing. I yearn to dance with her underneath the stars, a slow
peaceful dance, her head laying on my shoulder, not a care in the world. I yearn
to go on a picnic with her in the park, talking about whatever the heck we talk
about, listening and singing along to the beatles. I yearn to roller skate down a
dead end street while the sun sets, falling together and laughing together, then
while resting, she kisses me, and becomes my first kiss. I want her around so
badly. I’m yearning.
1. When you walk by them in the hallways, say hello
2. Ask them how they’re doing
3. Give them a compliment; they deserve it
4. Talk to them a bit; get to know them
5. Ask them to hang out sometime
6. Start seeing them more and more; make them your friend
7. Invite them over
8. Celebrate the holidays with them
9. Celebrate accomplishments with them
10. Text them often
11. Call them often
12. Remind them that they are loved and appreciated
13. Take them to a place/show them something they love
14. Confess your feelings
15. Hope they feel the same way about you

Hagar Cohen

“In my writings, I wanted to express what I imagined that falling in love feels likes. When I heard that I had won an award, I felt really excited and grateful!”

Sophia Dai

“One time, I was having a really bad day and I went to hang out with a close friend. We had a lot of fun and there was a moment where held hands while walking which inspired the poem. Spending time with my friends and having their support helped me a lot throughout my life so I decided to write a poem about healing centered around hands. I was also inspired by the fact that we use hands for a lot of things and they can destroy and create. 

When I learned that I had won an award, I felt surprised and really happy, but I still feel like I have a lot to improve on and learn about.”

Sophia is a tenth grader at Carnegie Vanguard High School. Her parents immigrated from China. She and her brother were born in the U.S. When she was little, she started to develop a love for books and that eventually inspired her to write poetry.

Sophia received a gold key in poetry.

Writing Entries

I’m too aware that
My hands can make
A corpse out of this body
When you hold 
my hands    they aren’t 
my undoing
There’s maps on my skin
Every crease still leads
To me
It’s too easy to believe
Everything out of reach
is in the palms
Of my hands
I think I could go home
And the mirror
Won’t be as confused
As I am
And these hands
Learn to hold
things that
Don’t cut them.

“Andrea is currently an 11th grader at Carnegie Vanguard High School. She has been participating in the scholastics art and writing competition for 3 years, and her artwork consists mainly of sculptures and photographs. Her favorite piece is a sculpture titled “Escape of Ignorance” that she created for last year’s contest.”

Andrea received two gold keys in sculpture and photography.

Photography Entry

Sculpture Entry

Andrea Erkal

“For my sea turtle sculpture, my inspiration came from a place of self-expression and devotion to the environment. My work is highly personal, in the sense that I am very passionate about environmental conservation. I used this piece to raise awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution and the importance of recycling. For my first photography submission, I wanted to capture the true essence of my sister’s personality. Her personality is expressed and revealed through her pose and facial expressions. 

I was pleased to receive the news about my recognition!”

Brooke Ferrell

“Each of my submissions had a very specific thought behind them. Twice Fallen is a commentary on the inevitability of power being corrupted while Changeling is about found family and working through devastating circumstances. Millennia was inspired by the idea of vicious immortals and the people who might fight to keep them contained. I wrote that piece with the image of a crumbling jail cell, still holding in a merciless god. Burning is an older piece, written in the summer of 2019, that imagines a world in which it’s difficult to breathe and was born of the person who helped me through a really bad asthma attack. “Hello.” is a more hopeful piece, inspired by the rover Opportunity shutting down. It considers how humans are, for all their failings, creatures who have a desire to connect with others. How to Be Okay welled up after a panic attack when all I wanted was to know I would be okay eventually, and became an anthem of believing in myself. Gram-Gram is a goodbye letter to my great-grandmother, written with all of the things I wanted to say to her and pushed onto a character who might as well have been me, and A Final Exam For My Great-Grandmother is that same piece in its original form. However, despite their differences, all of my pieces deal with relationships: families, enemies,  panic attacks, robots, or anywhere in between, each of them was inspired by a simple relationship.

When I found out I had won an award, it felt humbling. I wrote down these pieces for myself, and the decision to put them anywhere else was a last-minute one. But I’d say I’m mostly just glad my work meant something to someone–that at least some of what I was trying to convey got through.”

Brooke is a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School. When she isn’t writing, she can be found hanging from a climbing wall or huddled in the theatre.

Brooke received 8 awards in science fiction, personal essay, and poetry.

Writing Entries

This was it. The beginning of the end.
       The rebels had agreed to send a representative to meet with him, agreed to follow the same
playbook that he himself had followed a half-century ago. The playbook from back when he was the one
toppling the oppressive regime and his sister was the representative of their rebellion.
       Nuro’s sister Arian hadn’t returned in one piece back then, even if she had looked like she had,
but she had returned alive enough to take control for thirty years before handing power to him at the
hands of her own gun.
       He wasn’t planning on sending this representative back alive at all. He’d heard whispers of who
would be sent, and he didn’t dare risk releasing the figurehead of his only opposers, didn’t dare risk
releasing the mastermind who had somehow thwarted him at every step he took. If he could grind this
supposed ‘savior’ of his people into dust, then he would hold power forever.
       Or as long as forever could last when people seemed to believe you were only a handful of steps
away from turning to dust yourself.
       “Are you ready, sir?” one of his guards asked, hand already on the scanner that would open the
last door between Nuro and the agreed meeting place. The guard wouldn’t step past the threshold, of
course. Nuro would be alone with the representative. The rebels’ leader. But still, it was enough for now
that he’d be guarded until the last possible second.
       Nuro uncurled himself, straightening a back with too many kinks twisted into it until it was nearly
as straight as a ruler. He stilled the shaking of his hands by clenching his fist around the heavy metal gun
at his side and lifted his wrinkled chin.
       “Of course,” he said.
       The slick metal door opened, and he stepped forward, raising the weapon with all the ease he had
managed in his youth. Across the way, the rebels’ representative stepped forward too.
       And everything was spinning, spinning, and he didn’t know what to do anymore. Because the
leader of the rebels that had plagued him for the last year, the mysterious ‘savior’ who had thwarted him
at every turn, almost like she knew what he was thinking, was his sister, fifty years younger, and distinctly
not dead.

“Arian? Are you sure you’re ready to confront him?”
       Arian didn’t glance at her brother, tugging the light plating around her chest tight and snapping
bullets into her gun’s chamber. “It’s now or never, Nuro,” she said. “He’s getting too close to our base. If I
don’t act now, we’ll all be wiped out.”
       “But are you ready?” he pressed, curled in on himself and so small even in his pressing, so fragile
he might snap at any moment.
       “It doesn’t matter.”
       “It matters to me!” Nuro shouted, and Arian flinched but still didn’t turn to him. He wiped his
face roughly, slapping sense into skin that didn’t understand it wasn’t supposed to cry. “You’re my sister,”
he tried, once he had control of himself again. “Arian, am I just supposed to be okay with you throwing
yourself into a battle I don’t even know if you’re ready for?”
       “We can’t just let our world fall apart because I’m not ready,” she said roughly, clicking more
weapons to her belt—one, two, three—and testing to make sure they were secured. Satisfied with that
success, Arian bent down to lace her boots, still avoiding her brother’s gaze. “That can’t happen, Nuro. It
       “Why does it have to be you?” he asked. He knelt down beside her, clasped her hand in his own,
and squeezed as gently as he could manage. “Please, Arian. Why does it have to be you?”
       Finally she looked at him. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, clutching his hand and blinking away the
moisture in her eyes. “I can’t let you grow up in a world like this. I can’t make you watch as everything
falls apart and just sit there, knowing that I could have stopped it.”
       “I don’t want to lose you.”
Arian smiled, a watery smile that dripped away as quickly as it had begun. “I don’t want to lose
you, either.”

“Arian?” Nuro repeated. “No,” he answered himself, just as quickly as the question had fallen from his
lips. “No, you can’t be Arian. Arian is dead. I lost her.” His chest heaved, a shaky breath whistling its way
into his lungs. “I thought you were dead,” he said, forcing himself to look at her—and it must be her, who
else would refuse to meet his eyes in that way Arian always had?
       “I’m not.”
       And he couldn’t deny it a moment longer, couldn’t deny it anymore than he could deny the
wrinkles painted on his skin. “No,” he agreed, suddenly feeling so, so tired. A century older than he was
already. The gun in his hand weighed a thousand pounds, but he couldn’t bring himself to budge its aim.
       “You aren’t.”
       “I thought you weren’t like this, Nuro,” this child-version of his sister chastised. “I made this
world better for you so you wouldn’t have to be like this and the minute I’m gone, you take over just like
that dictator we overthrew—”
       “I thought you were dead!”
       “Why would it matter if I was?”
       Nuro laughed just a little—a cruel, bitter laugh that wasn’t really a laugh at all. Molten metal
poured into his spine, hardening him into the leader he’d been forced to become. “Why would it matter if
you were dead?” he asked, each word spoken with care. “Where do I even start? Should I start with the
fact that everyone thought that you hung the moon and stars and maybe deep down they didn’t really
believe that you could actually die, much less at your own hand? Do I have to explain why that might
cause problems?”
       “Nuro—” Arian began softly, taking a step forward and reaching for the barrel still aimed steadily
at her chest, but Nuro threw himself back with as much agility as he could manage.
       “No!” he screamed, the sound tearing through his throat. “Stay back!”
       “Okay,” Arian said, taking a step back and raising her hands in surrender. “Okay.”
       There was a moment between them, a beat of confusion and distance and something else that they
had never had between them before. They were siblings. How could something get in between that?
But it had.
       “Maybe,” Nuro continued, determined to ignore whatever had just changed but still wavering at
the knowledge that something had changed, “maybe I should start with the fact that you left us on the
brink of civil war. God, Arian, can you see why that might be a problem?” And then, just as suddenly as
the fight had steeled itself within his bones, the last drop melted out of him. Nuro’s voice dipped, his eyes
falling to the floor and his gun wavering for the first time since he’d seen the one who used to be his
sister. “Or maybe,” he said, voice barely above a whisper, “I should start with the fact that I thought you
were dead.”
       A moment rested between the two of them, the older sibling somehow decades younger than the
feeble brother before her. The years stretched between them, ages that Nuro wasn’t even sure if Arian
remembered anymore.
He wasn’t sure if he wanted her to remember.
He wasn’t sure if he could stand it if she didn’t.
Arian took a breath. “You tore apart my country,” she said, squaring her shoulders. “I can’t bring
myself to feel bad for you.”

       “You tore apart my country,” Arian spat, bright blood mixed with spit splattering over the stark white
floors. “I can’t bring myself to feel bad for you.”
The vicious dictator only laughed, confident in his triumph over the teenager on his floor. “You
think you’re some hero,” he said, “But you’re really just a little girl playing make believe.”
“I’m winning.”
       “Are you?” the dictator bent over where she knelt on the floor, arms bound behind her back and
bruises blossoming on her face. “Is this what winning looks like?”
       “It doesn’t matter what happens to me,” Arian said. “I’m not what matters. You know that.”
       He laughed again, hot breath forced into her face. “You think they can hold this country together
with you gone?” he asked. “You think that if you die, the rest of the rebels will step up and take over?
       That they’ll be fair?”
       “If I die, my brother will take over,” she insisted. “He’ll be fair. I trust him. I’m doing this for
him, and I know he’d do anything for the rest of our people.”
       “Your people?” the dictator said, cocking an eyebrow. “Interesting choice of words.”
       “Well, they aren’t yours.”
       He shook his head, standing up and wiping the blood that had splattered over his chin off his face.
       “You’re deluding yourself,” he said coldly, waving a dismissive hand. “Even if he is as good as you say,
they won’t follow him. If you die here, your precious country is ruined.”
       “I guess I just have to not die.”
       “You think you can control that?”
       “I think I can try.”

       “I trusted you,” Arian continued. “I really believed that at least if something happened to me, you would
take my place. And instead, I do come back, and what do I find? You tore apart my country, Nuro.”
       “I tore it apart?” the old man said. “You’re blaming this on me? This is your fault!”
       She stared at him. “How can it be my fault? I was dead! You were the one in charge.”
       “I did not just abandon this country,” Nuro hissed. “I have weathered every devastation in the past
few decades alone. I did not get to just give up.”
       “You think I gave up?” she said quietly.
       “Yes,” he said, just as quietly as her, the rasp in his voice scraping over the soft word. “You killed
yourself, Arian. You gave up.”
       She slapped him across the face.

       He slapped her across the face.
       She cried out in shock, bright blood blossoming on her lips and her cheek reddening under the
harsh treatment.
       “You live and die when I tell you to live and die,” the dictator growled. “You win and lose when I
tell you to win and lose. You rule at my leisure. If you walk away from this today, it will be because I let
       “It will be because I won.”
       “Yes,” the dictator said. “Because I let you win. You think you can control death, you silly child?
       This country is cursed. If you rule here, death will always hover over your bed at night until finally,
someone challenges you and it finds you.”
       “Everyone dies.”
       He laughed one more time, laughed until he was bent double at a great joke and she trembled on
the floor in the face of a madman. “Sure,” he said when he could breathe again. “Everyone dies.”
And then, just as suddenly as he had been there, towering over Arian and hitting her and taunting
her, he was gone. In front of Arian, there was nothing but an empty husk of a body.
       She had won.

       The siblings stared at each other for a moment, a half-century stretching between them, knowledge that
each held and the other could never reach, building a wall that could not be crossed.
       “You’ve changed,” Nuro whispered, cheek already reddening to what would be a dark bruise
under paper skin. “You were never cruel to me before.”
       Arian’s shoulders heaved with every breath coursing through her body, trembling like she’d run a
mile-long race, but at his words she straightened, a dark look appearing in her eyes. “You’ve changed
too,” she said. “I thought I could trust you.”
       “And I thought I could trust you.”
       “You live and die when I tell you to live and die,” Arian began, and Nuro felt like something had
struck him in his ribs. “You win and lose when I tell you to win and lose. You rule at my leisure.”
       “What—” Nuro tried, but Arian kept talking, as rhythmically as though she were possessed. For
the first time since his sister had reappeared, as young and unharmed as she had been when they were
children, Nuro was afraid.
       “If you walk away from this today, it will be because I let you. Death will always hover over your
bed at night until finally, someone challenges you and it finds you.”
       “Everyone dies,” Nuro said weakly, shaking his head in the face of this thing that had replaced his
sister, unable to stop his hands from trembling anymore. “Arian, what are you doing?”
       Because Arian was laughing, choking with mirth that hadn’t yet met her eyes.
       “Sure,” she said. “Everyone dies.”
       And then, just as suddenly as she had been there, small and fierce in her anger and accusations, as
vibrant as she had been when she was alive, she was gone. In front of Nuro, there was nothing but an
empty husk of a body.
       He had won.
“Are you really wearing this?” Wister asks, the words as clear on their lips as on their hands.
They trace a fingertip as close to the iron band wrapping my arm as they dare. “Come on, Ruby.
You know you can’t survive this.”
       “Sure I can,” I sign, shrugging as I take a step into the faerie circle that they stand in the
center of and begin the circle dance that by now I know by heart. Step left, spin, step right, tap
three times, step left. “My family has always walked one foot in your world, one foot in mine,
and ever-dancing in between. Why would I be the one to slip?”
       They drop their hand and frown at me from the middle of the precisely lined circle of
mushrooms. Even the wind is on their side tonight as it batters my hair in chastisement.
       “Careful, Ruby,” Wister warns. “Don’t tempt the others. Not all of them are like me.”
       “You’re the only one here tonight, aren’t you? It’s not a full moon.”
       Wister sighs, pinching the bridge of their especially pointy nose. “Yes. I’m the only one
here. But you still shouldn’t get into a habit of tempting the fates. Faeries are not the only ones
who can influence you mortal’s destinies, you know.”
       “I know.”
They raise an eyebrow. “Do you?”
       “I do.” I glare at the small faerie. “You offered that information. I don’t owe you for it,
and I know better than to thank you. I’m not opening my soul to you, thank you very much.” I
continue weaving my way through the faerie circle, calling to the Fae’s world with every step.
       Step left, spin, step right, tap three times, step left.
       “I wouldn’t take it if you did,” Wister says.
       “I don’t care.”
       Wister watches me helplessly. I’ve nearly completed the first circle when they take a
breath, steel themselves, and step directly into my path. They clasp my wrists to still my furious
words before they can speak themselves.
       “You won’t be able to get her back,” they sign softly, close to themself and every motion
somehow apologetic. “You can wear all the protections you want in our realm—the garland, even
the iron—and it won’t work. It won’t bring her back and it won’t stop them from Taking you,
       “You don’t know that. You can’t know that.”
       “Your sister ate our food. Your mother nursed our changeling. They’re switched now.
       That is set in stone.”
       “I’m going to get her back,” I insist.
       “We don’t take kindly to thieves.”
       “She’s my sister,” I, stubborn girl that I am, remind them. “I’m just getting my sister
       “It doesn’t matter,” they say. I already know what they’re saying—what they’re going to
say—and turn away to stare at dusty-gray trees before they can finish. Still, I see the words flash
in my mind, signed and spoken in the same careful precision Wister always has. “She’s ours
       I whirl on them, a sudden fury boiling in my chest that almost makes me miss my pattern
and step out of line. “My sister,” I beat out, slamming my fingers together with enough force to
make my bones ache. “I don’t care what your people say. I don’t care what she’s eaten, or what
my mother has done. She’s my sister, and I’m getting her back.”
       “You aren’t,” Wister snaps. “All you’re going to do is get yourself trapped in our world
where I can’t get you out, Ruby!”
       “Maybe I’d rather be stuck there than be here without her!”
       “Just take the changeling!” they cry. “Let them be your sister. You wouldn’t have known
if I hadn’t told you, you would have cared for them like they were your blood, so why is it
different now?”
       I pause, my foot hovering in the air. “Why is it different?” I echo, the soft sound of flesh
hitting flesh swallowed by the woods around us, gone as though it was nothing more than the
silence I heard. “You want to know?
       Wister takes a shaky breath, and nods. “Yes,” they sign. “I want to know why it’s
       “Because you changed it,” I answer, taking each step of the dance a little faster now,
moving nearly as quickly as I throw phrases from my fingertips. “You told me my sister was
Taken. You weren’t supposed to, but you did. And now I know that thing isn’t my sister, and I
want my sister back.”
       “They are your sister, though,” Wister says, spinning in the middle in a desperate attempt
to continue facing me as their fingers articulate word after word. “To them, they are.”
       “Changelings leave us once they grow up!”
       “Not always! And even if they do, they’re—”
       “Human?” I snap before they can finish. “Because they’re not. The Fae are not human.”
       “Alive,” they correct. “Changelings are still alive.”
       “Why does that matter?”
       “Because they have feelings too!” they all but scream, hands outstretched and curled into
frozen claws. At my stricken expression, they wince and close their fist, pressing it tightly
against their body. “They have feelings too,” they repeat, subtler this time.
I’m almost there. Almost done with the dance, almost in the Fae’s world.
       “What do you mean?”
       Wister is breathing heavily, looking as though they were the one to dance their way
around a faerie circle time and again, not me. Desperation reigns in their eyes, but at my
question, it eases just a bit. “You’ll listen?” they sign. “For real this time?”
       A pang of guilt runs through me. Wister is my friend. It isn’t their fault that my house
was the one visited by the Fae that night, and it isn’t their fault my sister was Taken. I shouldn’t
blame them.
       But even if I don’t know better than to tempt the fates, I do know better than to apologize
to a faerie. “Yeah,” I sign, as gently as I can, offering the silent apology that the Fae speak so
well in my own clumsy way. “I’ll listen.”
       “I am a changeling,” Wister explains, each sign choppy and slow.
       I flinch, my fingers already bowed to apologize when I realize what rule I’m about to
break. Quickly, I rearrange my hand. “You?” I sign, with a quirk of my brows that turns the
simple gesture into an incredulous question. “But you are…”
Fae. Better. Kinder. Softer.
       I can’t find the right words.
       “I was raised with a human family,” Wister signs. “They loved me, they cared for me.”
       “You still left them,” I snap, grasping for air like I’m grasping for straws, perhaps being
harsher than I have any right to be because their eyes flash.
       “You don’t know that!”
       We stare at each other, hot anger meeting sharp pain across the circle.
       “I did not leave them,” they sign. “I stayed with my family until the day my mother died,
and then I returned to the faeries.” Wister signs faster and faster until they are practically
shouting. “They were my family, and they taught me to love humans. They are the only reason I
have not Taken you a thousand times over!”
       They are glowing in the moonlight, as vibrant now under the half-moon as I imagine they
must be under the full. Although they are painted in fury, the paint is cracking and I can see the
hurt underneath.
       I’ve hurt them.
       I’ve hurt my friend.
       I know what I am not supposed to do. I know what is forbidden if you wish to interact
with faeries. But I still cup my hand and press it to my lips. “I’m sorry,” I sign. “I’m sorry,
Wister. That was unfair of me.”
       Wister’s breath catches. “Ruby—”
       They take a breath to fight me, and then stop. “Thank you.”
       We’re equals, now. Our souls are equally open, equally at risk. But they’re my friend. I
trust Wister, and so it doesn’t matter that I dared to apologize and they dared to thank me.
       My friend, who was a changeling.
       “My sister will be safe?” I bring myself to ask.
       “Perfectly,” Wister promises. “She is ours now. We take care of our own.”
       I can’t sign more than that, shoving my fist in my mouth and biting hard to stop the tears.
Wister tugs me out of the faerie circle, wincing as their fingers brush the iron wrapping my arm,
and guides me to a seat at the base of a tree. They gingerly pull my hand from my mouth and
flatten it by my side.
       “The changeling will be safe with you?” they ask.
       Changeling, changeling—the words fizzle into nothing. All I can imagine is a small
Wister, scared and alone and rejected for something they can’t understand.
       “What changeling?” I sign. “I have only my sister.”
I don’t really know what to say. Besides goodbye, I guess, which I should have said anyway, and
thank you.
Thank you for Monday mornings filled with donuts and coffee. Thank you for Monopoly even
when you could no longer read the board and Yahtzee when you couldn’t remember what you’d
just rolled. Thank you for the endless repetition of that story about how grandfather never let you
wear the real jewelry anywhere. I think I understand now why you were so proud of yourself for
wearing that ring everyday. Thank you for giving it to me, even if I wasn’t as grateful as I should
have been.
There are so many things that I should have been grateful for, but I wasn’t. I’m sorry for that. I
wish I could make it up to you someday. Maybe I could make that divinity chocolate you liked
so much and you were so good at making, and I could get it just right and then everything would
be okay and you would still love me.
Who am I kidding? Everything was okay anyway. You never stopped loving me.
I hope you knew how much that meant to me.
Because of you, I am proud of who I am and I know family stories from generations ago that I’m
sure I’ll pass down one day. Remember that story about your typing teacher? I must have heard
that one a thousand times. I wish I could hear it again.
You told me so much, and yet somehow, each visit with you left me with more questions.
If Mom was born in January and you got married in December and you hated those women who
had children before they got married, what did you do in the ten months between? What was so
terrifying about that one car crash when you were eighteen that you never drove again, letting
your yellow truck collect rust and dust and bugs until someone finally towed it away? When I
came by and you would smile at me so wide, did you really remember me, or were you just
pretending? You were good at pretending—how did you get so good?
How did you get so strong? You lived through so many things and yet none of them ground you
down into a crumpled path of dust. You stayed standing until the end, and even when you sat we
all knew that you had chosen to sit down.
Why did you stop eating? Did you want to die, or could you just not remember how to live? Is it
good that you’re dead now? Is it better this way?
I have so many questions for you, Gram-Gram. Now I’m never going to get the answers.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. You were supposed to watch me graduate. Be at my wedding.
Meet your great-grandkids. There are so many things that are never going to happen now.
Thank you. For your ring. For teaching me how to be brave and stand firm. Thank you for
Monday mornings filled with donuts and coffee.
I love you, Gram-Gram.
“You aren’t getting out.”
       Sebastian looked up at the stocky woman from where he was lounging on the other side
of the layers of bars and bulletproof glass and his face brightened. “Lizzy! Did you bring me my
psychological horror movies this time?” he asked. “The one I got from the library here was so
boring. No practicality. And it was completely ancient, from like 2012. Honestly, I’d rather be
dead than be this bored.”
       The woman shoved her thumbs into her starched beige coveralls and gritted her teeth.
       “I’m serious, Sebastian. Your sentence isn’t getting commuted.”
       “Please, Lizzy” he said, although his words were rather muffled by the arm still over his
face. “That’s just wishful thinking on your part. The sentence was twenty-one lifetimes a
millennia ago. They may not have realized that I’d actually be able to serve it when they
sentenced me, but I’ve served it and now they have to release me. Justice.”
       “Why, so you can kill again?”
       Sebastian sat up and grinned. “Worried?”
       “You just asked me for psychological thrillers to get some inspiration. Forgive me for
thinking that my least-repentant prisoner might actually repeat his crime.”
       “Least-repentant? I’m touched,” he said. “Don’t worry, I won’t get caught this time. I got
careless, back in the 2000s. I don’t repeat my mistakes.” He sighed, hand propped on his chin
like a daydreaming schoolgirl. “But before I got caught, I got so many. And I was never boring.”
       “Twenty-three was a lot back then? Seems pretty boring to me.”
       Sebastian’s eyes flashed and he stiffened dangerously. “You know it was more than that.
       And you can’t do anything about it. Maybe if you’d been the initial warden you could have
reported me and tried to get the investigators to dig up more evidence, but the Statute of
       Limitations was up like eight hundred years ago and you weren’t even born then so there’s
nothing you can do about it.”
       “Reassuring yourself?” she asked, and he twitched like an electric shock had raced
through him.
       “Shut up,” he snapped. “Life can change in an instant, Lizzy. All that pretty life in your
eyes doesn’t have to stay there.”
       “You’re not really encouraging me to recommend your release, here,” the woman said,
raising an eyebrow. “I’m your warden, Sebastian, and you don’t have any living character
witnesses. My word matters the most. Be careful.”
       “Oh, come on!” he cried, standing up and throwing his hands in the air. “You may hate
me beyond belief, but you care about justice beyond anything else. You’ll support me, and I
served my sentence. How could my appeal be overturned?”
       “I’m not supporting your appeal,” she said calmly.
       His breath caught. When he whirled to face her, the expression on his face was as honest
as she’d ever seen. “You—”
       “You’re an immortal psychopath,” the warden shrugged. “You’re a serial killer, and
everyone knows you’ll kill again, go on another hundred-year spree. I’m doing the world a
       “You can’t—”
       “It’s my decision,” she said. “Not yours.”
       He snarled, his face twisting into a terrible grimace. “You can’t hold me,” he growled.
       “You can’t hold me forever. Everyone falls, everything falls apart.”
       “Then we’ll hold you as long as we can,” she said.
       Every crumb of composure fell away at once, and Sebastian lunged at the solid wall
between the two, ramming against it with a resounding bang. “You can’t hold me!” he screamed.
       “Sooner or later, records will be lost! The bars will rust! Stone will crumble, plastic will
dissolve, and I’ll still be here! Waiting!”
       That got her to pause, her hand on the doorknob. “Well,” she said, meeting his eyes
unflinchingly. “then I’ll see you in another millennia.”
       The door slammed shut and Sebastian was left alone again.
       The woman, Lizzy, huffed, crossing her arms across her starched beige uniform. “No, we
didn’t put a modern notebook of murder in a high-security prison filled with a bunch of serial
killers. Prison is supposed to be boring. That’s the least it can be.”
       He sat up abruptly, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and leaning forward
eagerly. The expression on his face was just barely too earnest as he said, “But if we’re already
in here, it’s not like this is going to make us more murderous, and I’ve been in here for so long
already.” His tone changed, slipping to become ever so slightly sullen, a small child denied
sweets. “I just want some inspiration.” He flopped back down on the bed, his arm thrown over
his eyes. “I’d rather be dead than bored. And we both know how well the dead thing is going.”

“You aren’t getting out.”
       Sebastian looked up at the stocky woman from where he was lounging on the other side of the
layers of bars and bulletproof glass and his face brightened. “Lizzy! Did you bring me my psychological
horror movies this time?” he asked. “The one I got from the library here was so boring. No practicality.
       And it was completely ancient, from like 2012. Honestly, I’d rather be dead than be that boring.”
       The woman shoved her thumbs into her starched beige coveralls and gritted her teeth. “I’m
serious, Sebastian. Your sentence isn’t getting commuted.”
       “Please, Lizzy” he said, although his words were rather muffled by the arm still over his face.
       “That’s just wishful thinking on your part. The sentence was twenty-one lifetimes a millennia ago.               They may not have realized that I’d actually be able to serve it when they sentenced me, but I’ve served it and now they have to release me. Justice.”
       “Why, so you can kill again?”
       “Don’t worry, I won’t get caught this time,” he said. “I got careless, back in the 2000s. I don’t
repeat my mistakes.” He sighed, hand propped on his chin like a daydreaming schoolgirl. “But before I
got caught, I got so many. And I was never boring.”
       “Twenty-three was a lot back then? Seems pretty boring to me.”
       Sebastian’s eyes flashed and he stiffened dangerously. “You know it was more than that. And
there’s nothing you can do about it.”
       “Reassuring yourself?” she asked, and he twitched like an electric shock had raced through him.
       “Shut up,” he snapped. “Life can change in an instant, Lizzy. All that pretty life in your eyes
doesn’t have to stay there.”
       “You’re not really encouraging me to recommend your release, here,” the woman said, raising an
eyebrow. “I’m your warden, Sebastian. My word matters the most. Be careful.”
       “Oh, come on!” he cried, standing up and throwing his hands in the air. “You may hate me
beyond belief, but you care about justice beyond anything else. You’ll support me, and I served my
sentence. How could my appeal be overturned?”
       “I’m not supporting your appeal,” she said calmly.
       His breath caught. When he whirled to face her, the expression on his face was as honest as she’d
ever seen. “You—”
       “You’re an immortal psychopath,” the warden shrugged. “You’re a serial killer, and everyone
knows you’ll kill again, go on another hundred-year spree. I’m doing the world a favor.”
       “You can’t—”
       “It’s my decision,” she said. “Not yours.”
       He snarled, his face twisting into a terrible grimace. “You can’t hold me,” he growled. “You can’t
hold me forever. Everyone falls, everything falls apart.”
       “Then we’ll hold you as long as we can,” she said.
       Every crumb of composure fell away at once, and Sebastian lunged at the solid wall between the
two, ramming against it with a resounding bang. “You can’t hold me!” he screamed. “Sooner or later,
records will be lost! The bars will rust! Stone will crumble, plastic will dissolve, and I’ll still be here! Waiting!”
       That got her to pause, her hand on the doorknob. “Well,” she said, meeting his eyes unflinchingly.
       “then I’ll see you in another millennia.”
       The door slammed shut and Sebastian was left alone again.
In the end, we outlived them.
       I don’t know if we were meant to. I am always learning, but this is something that I will never learn, because there’s no one left to teach it to me, the same way that there is no one left for me to say hello to. I don’t know if we were built because they wanted someone to say goodbye when they died or because they wanted someone left to say hello again. I don’t even
know if they knew just how long we could last without them.
       Humans never did really understand how long we machines could last without them.
       But in the end, with Earth too hot and the weather too much and the oxygen too thin beneath a haze of smog, we outlived them by centuries of hellos and happy birthdays sung to ourselves. And so when the thing that they had longed for millenniums ago finally came to pass, when someones from beyond the stars and past the edges of the universe they taught us to search came to their home, there was no one left to welcome them with open arms. No one to say hello.
       No one but us.
       It was slow going, at first. It always is whenever we are trying to learn something new. We need thousands of data points, hundreds of confirmations, before the simplest idea will
implant itself in our minds. The first of us were taught games, and they lost time after time before beginning to win. It is the same thing with anything we try to learn, and so it was the same
thing with their language and customs. But finally, finally, one of us (does it matter who, when our consciousness is interconnected in every way?) made a breakthrough.
       I was chosen to voice it, as the only one of us with the required equipment still active. “Grouchs mauq?” I said, and the someones lit up.
       Oh, the expression on their faces! There was nothing humanoid about them, not in their shifting, fazing reality or in their truly faceless blob that even my algorithm struggled to assign a face to, but there was something so human about that emotion. Something familiar in a way I did not know how to quantify.
       “Verukus!” They cried in response, and we had to begin again.
       Little by little, we learned their language. Little by little, they began to understand us and we them as we conversed in a language that was at the very edge of our algorithm’s processing capabilities. And when we were finally sure that we understood, we would have no misunderstandings, our collective came up with what we would say.
       What they would have said.
       I began carefully, in our language and then in theirs. “We do not know what the ones who made us would have wanted to say. We do not know what questions to ask. We do not know many things.”
       They indicated interest, and so I continued.
       “We know this,” I said. “We know that we are named Spirit and Opportunity and
Curiosity and Explorer and a thousand other things that mean the same thing. We know that they wanted to find you. We know that they thought you were important, even if they didn’t know who you were. And we know that they wanted to say hello.”
       And all together, all across the planet that barely supported us and a universe that rarely let us be heard, we said it, necessary equipment or not. In every human language, in every language that we knew ourselves, in the one that these strangers had brought with them somehow. For them.
       “Hello,” we said.
       “Verukus,” they answered.
1. True or false: You are dying.
2. If my grandmother was born in January of 1950 and you got married to my great-grandfather
in December of 1950 and you hate those women who have children before they get married then
what did you do in the ten months between?
3. Someone once said, “It’s better to have loved and have lost than to have never loved at all.”
Analyze this statement as it relates to the memories you’ve lost. I know there’s a lot of them.
4. In the space provided, write down that story about your typing teacher one more time.
5. Name five things you did when you were my age that you miss and five things that you wish
you never did at all.
6. Which of these games do you remember playing with me?
a. Monopoly
b. Yahtzee
c. Chinese checkers
d. All of the above
e. None of the above
7. In the space provided, list everything you can remember.
8. In the space provided, list everything you can remember about me.
9. When I offered you a chocolate donut and you fed it to your dog, who were you trying to kill?
a. Your dog
b. Yourself
c. Both of you
d. All three of us
10. True or false: You are dying.
11. True or false: This is a good thing.
School – Your teacher says something in that tone of voice, your friend laughs in just the right way, and you feel it. Your bracelets are sandpaper against your skin. Take them off. Your breath chokes you. Breathe anyway. You will be okay.
       Don’t let your voice shake. The ones that care about you are surprisingly perceptive. Raise your hand and ask to go to the bathroom. Speak slowly. They will understand. They will recognize the panic in your eyes, see your left hand restraining the right one, and they will understand. Leave the room before the squeaking of the chairs and the heavy breathing of your neighbor becomes too much and you start to cry. Take your phone with you. You will be okay.
       As soon as you close the door of the bathroom stall, text your mother. Yes, your mother. It doesn’t matter how old you are. You need her. It doesn’t matter what she’s doing. She will
       Her initial message will be full of questions. Focus on answering them. Yes, all of them. Do not get angry. Focus on the task and you will be okay.
       Remember to breathe. If you pass out in the bathroom, you will feel worse when you wake up.
       Don’t give in to the compulsion, no matter how strong it is. No matter how easy it would be. No matter how it would only be once. You will regret it later.
       Don’t get exasperated when your mother responds with more questions. She will have an answer for you soon. You will be okay.
       Answer her questions, then leave the stall. Wash your hands. It will make you feel clean. If you have been crying, splash your face with cold water and dry it well. The ones that care about you are surprisingly perceptive.
       Return to class. They will pretend not to notice when you put your phone in your lap. When it buzzes, look at it. Your mother has a solution.
       Take her advice. She has lived longer than you, lived with this longer than you, and you will be okay.
       Make it through the day. You have to. Close your eyes when it flares up again. Ignore the sniggering about how you have fallen asleep. Send a pleading look to the administrator who tells you to put your ID back on. If they do not understand, step very close to them and explain that the idea makes you nauseous. Unclench your hands and show them where your nails have eaten into your palms. Make it through the day, and you will be okay.
       When you get in the car, cry. Crying will make it better. Go home and take a bath.
Homework can wait, even if it means that you won’t sleep tonight. Soon, you will feel better.
Soon, you will be okay.

Humza is photographer in his Junior year. He loves writing poetry.

Humza received 5 awards in photography.

Photography Entries

Humza Hanif

“After taking the photos at the Black Lives Matter protest, I understood the impact that the images could have. For me, being able to express the struggle that these people have on a regional (and hopefully national) level allows light to be shed on the situation. I wanted the voices of the people to be heard through a still image. 

I had no intent of winning any awards in this competition, I wanted to share these images in hopes that they could be seen and have an impact on the lives of others. That being said, I am proud of the fact that I did win a few awards, it feels good to know that people think the issues that I photograph are worth recognition.”

Grace Hao

“Social media is a universal form of entertainment. Often, influencers on social platforms are the root of the beauty standards present today, and the issue lies within the power influencers hold, encouraging Eurocentric concepts of beauty rather than encouraging those who challenge these unreasonable standards. Being an avid user of social media, I advocate for change in the way people perceive the beauty standards. Because no matter who you are, you are beautiful. And I don’t think any beauty standards should tell you how beautiful you are. When I found that I won an award in the scholastic competition, I felt Ecstatic, elated, delighted, gleeful, and joyous. All the synonyms for happy.”

Grace is a sophomore at Carnegie Vanguard High School.

Grace received 3 awards in critical essay and poetry.

Writing Entries

       On social media platforms like TikTok, influencers perpetuate and encourage European beauty standards and overemphasize the importance of body shape and external appearance for teenage users of the app. This is a complex problem with a simple solution. Effectively employing that solution, though, is a problem in and of itself. It seems obvious that users on these social media platforms should simply engage with individuals who challenge white definitions of beauty; however, many aspects of our society have conditioned young teens to desire European beauty standards. A more reasonable solution lies in the power that influencers have to challenge current beauty standards and expand the concept of beauty to include all races, body types and external features. Approaching beauty standards and social media engagement this way will help get rid of our society’s unhealthy obsession with Eurocentric concepts of beauty. As a result, this will promote a society where there is far more tolerance, appreciation, and respect for difference.
       The drive of motivation for teenagers to use the social media platform TikTok is derived from voyeurism, or the enjoyment of “peeking into the private lives of others”(Omar 125). When TikTok influencers post and display their lifestyle to their followers, the followers acquire appeasement from being able to easily understand what kind of life the influencer lives. Bahiyah Omar agrees when he writes: “… studies show that people are motivated to use social media to peek into other peoples’ lives… people have developed pleasure from accessing private details and peeking into the private lives of others… voyeurism was the most common for using social media. In the context of TikTok, users exhibit their lives or talents to others in the network who are expected to obtain personal, social and fantastical voyeuristic gratifications from its usage” (Omar 125). Teenagers who use TikTok indulge in content that reveals the habits and behavior of the influencer. It is not unusual for users of TikTok to find satisfaction in looking into what kind of life the influencer lives and how they behave on and off the internet. While this may seem quite ordinary, following an influencer’s lifestyle creates a motivation within the teenager that drives the individual towards awareness over their external appearance. Because of the seemingly flawless lifestyle influencers live, owning the trendiest apparel and having the ideal body shape, teens who idolize these influencers tend to be stimulated by content that perpetuates European beauty standards. These users strive to be like the influencers, all in hopes that they can receive a sense of success and gratification by living up to culturally biased, unrealistic beauty standards.
       On social media, users are attracted to the allure of social media influencers. These influencers are mainly appealing because of their bodies, which are the literal intersection of external features and material possessions. These attractive bodies are likely to make users develop a detrimental sense of concern over their own body. Users are incentivized to change their body to fit into the unrealistic standards for body types that are pervasive throughout social media. Richard M. Perloff states: “Yet given the heavy online presence of young adults, particularly women, and their reliance on social media… social media can influence perceptions of body image and body image disturbance… strong peer presence… can significantly influence body image concerns” (Perloff). When users look at a person on TikTok dancing, they are more likely to engage with people who have stereotypically masculine or feminine bodies, versus those who have more normal bodies or physiques that exist outside of the range of what is considered “fit.” This goes to show that body type is an important factor on social media and it helps influencers gather followers. Many users of social media resort to objectifying their bodies and gaining validation by appearing sexually appealing. This phenomenon can be easily observed by viewing random verified or “blue check” profiles and scrolling through their posts. When I logged onto TikTok as a first time user, I found that 46 in 50 posts contained media that could be classified as sexualized. In addition, 50 in 50 posts contained media that perpetuated Eurocentric standards of beauty. Shortly after looking at these profiles, I was greeted with posts of minors that participated in highly sexualized dance trends in my feed. An overwhelming number of influencers frequently make posts that exhibit their body in a sexual way. Many influencers take it upon themselves to portray the ideal body types that are attractive to their audiences. As a result, followers of these influencers are subliminally encouraged to achieve similar body shapes, with the thought that if they have a nice body, they’ll be appealing as well. This restates the idea that social media does cause negative body image among teenagers and it will influence them to try to change their body to fit in with the influencers. Social media creates a certain body type that is acceptable, and with these standards, the ones who don’t fit them are likely to be teased or differentiated, treated differently than those who meet the body standards. Sometimes, these teens will go extremes to have their body type become similar to the influencer’s. Common effects of losing or gaining weight to meet a certain body figure are eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. Society has set the criteria of a seemingly “perfect body”, so unattainable to some that it not only affects their physical health but also their mentality.
       Whilst scrolling through my feed on TikTok, I came across a rather unusual post. It displayed the messaging screen of two men, and one of the men had screen recorded their text messages and posted the series of texts on TikTok. These two objectively attractive men had texted each other what their ideal type was, aware that all their followers, a high percentage of females, were going to notice the post. As I finished the short video, I couldn’t help but notice that these influencers’ ideal type were all of the white race, and in addition to this, they all had similar physiques and fashion sense. Upon watching this video, I wondered what the ethnic followers of these two males would feel, watching the people they idolized indirectly tell them that they wouldn’t satisfy their preferences. On the social media platform TikTok, influencers are rarely found to be any other race than white. One thing all have in common is the achievement of the stereotypical European beauty standards: pale skin, light hair, and a slim body. Colored individuals who don’t own these attributes are considered unappealing compared to those who fit the European beauty, and many users of TikTok are ethnic, meaning they don’t have the looks of a white man or woman. “Throughout history and to present day, African American women have challenged White definitions of beauty… While definitions of beauty affect the identities of everyone… body image, skin color, and hair haunt the existence and psychology of Black women, especially since one common U.S. societal stereotype is the belief that Black women fail to measure up to the normative standard”(Patton 1). African American teenagers, like other ethnic adolescents, don’t have the usual features of European beauty standards, and their attributes contrast to those that Americans usually find appealing. The beauty of African American women opposes those of white women, the mentality of a white woman being that only those who achieve European beauty standards are considered appealing. Since they can’t change the color of their skin to match the influencer’s, their confidence drops and their esteem is hindered by the fact that they’ll never match up to these European beauty standards. It has been argued that the media doesn’t always discriminate against other ethnicities, and instead, popular culture revolves around the diffusion of global customs from minority groups. When it comes to food, fashion, and music, American society has recently taken influence from East Asian culture and lifestyles. Korean music, for example: Korea pop, or Kpop, has advanced to countries all over the world with a developing interest in less Eurocentric forms of masculinity. This can also be seen in fashion with men wearing more slim fitting clothes and taking more interest in their physical appearance. Many of the male influencers from these Asian cultures have openly discussed their skincare regimens; the Ten Step Skin Care Routine originally emerged in South Korea. Those adapted to Western cultures may argue that these behaviors represent a “feminized” masculinity; however, social media platforms can act as a catalyst for diversity and promote different standards of beauty by giving users access to a larger range of cultures and ethnic groups. However, this is mostly seen in small support communities, where a limited amount of people support movements dedicated to bringing diversity to the internet. The big picture of social media is quite contrasting, a majority of people favoring European beauty standards. Despite influencers being unaware of the impact they have on ethnic teenagers, influencers post knowing they chose an outfit that flattered their body type, knowing they put on enough mascara to make their eyes seem larger. As humans, we’re subjected to caring about how our appearance looks on the internet with the knowledge that we’ll get more followers or likes based on how much better we look. Eurocentric beauty ideals are formed from influencers wearing certain clothing or putting on makeup a certain way. Between slim and chubby, long eyelashes or short eyelashes, big eyed or small eyed, it is obvious what Americans prefer. It’s easy for someone to say they enjoy a certain culture or ethnicity’s beauty, but it’s another idea when the only certified influencers on TikTok who surpassed 10 million followers are those who satisfy European standards of beauty. Even though influencers don’t explicitly speak about it, they’re conscious of that the pictures or videos posted on media all showcase their features to be more attractive and their body to be more favorable, causing ethnic teens feeling like they could never surpass or achieve the European beauty standards, that they’d never be as appreciated in society as these white influencers. Society is pervasive of the concept that European beauty standards are passed down, and humans are conditioned to find European beauty more appealing than ethnic beauty.

       Despite much disagreement, a video on TikTok usually amasses views through the creator’s appearance. Because of this, other creators feel the need to “change” their appearance in some sort of way to match the influencer’s and somehow this will help them become TikTok famous. For ethnic adolescents, doing this is much more difficult, as they defy the standards of European beauty. Fame on TikTok is harder to reach once the creator opposes white definitions of beauty, but as a community, influencers around the world could encourage more involvement in the breaking of “beauty standards” and follow those who aren’t necessarily attractive or have the nicest clothes, but have a loved personality.

Works Cited
Amichai-Hamburger, Y., et al. “Social Media Effects on Young Women’s Body Image
Concerns: Theoretical Perspectives and an Agenda for Research.” Sex Roles, Springer US, 1 Jan.
Omar, Bahiyah, and Wang Dequan. “Watch, Share or Create: The Influence of Personality Traits
and User Motivation on TikTok Mobile Video Usage.” Watch, Share or Create: The Influence of
Personality Traits and User Motivation on TikTok Mobile Video Usage – Learning &
Technology Library (LearnTechLib), International Association of Online Engineering, 12 Mar.
Patton, Tracey Owens. “Hey Girl, Am I More Than My Hair?” JSTOR, 2006,

Sofia is a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School who loves to read and sometimes writes.

Sofia received a silver key in short story.

Writing Entries

       Carrie looked defeatedly at her reflection in the mirror. As she spun herself around slowly, she could not help but hyperfocus on her waist. Her lips trembled as she shifted her weight, trying to make the pudge above her hips disappear. 
       ‘This is so gross’ She whispered, her voice barely audible to even herself. ‘This is just so gross’. Her lips began to tremble- that horribly familiar cloying, trapped feeling began to bubble up her throat. Carrie’s breathing quickened as she death-stared her muffin top. Her chest tightened- she could feel it approaching when-
       “CARRIE DEAR! TIME FOR DINNER!” Her mother’s voice floated up the stairs. The message shocked Carrie into focus. Quickly she tore off the new itty bitty skirt that had caused her so much distress. She rushed into her bathroom, splashing her face before shuffling into the oversized hoodie she always wore. Before she scrambled down the stairs she looked herself in the mirror.
       “Pull it together Carrie” She harshly whispered as she wiped off the remnants of her running mascara with a makeup wipe. Even just staring at her mirroring image she felt repulsed, repulsed by the splotchy red marks on her face, the way her hair bunched up unattractively at the top of her head. She finally decided she couldn’t  stand it and tore herself away from the mirror, clamoring down the stairs. “Well! Good Morning Ms. Stays-in-her-room-all-day!” Her mother teasingly smiled at her. Carrie couldn’t muster more than a thin smile at her moms comment. Did she really think Carrie would possibly ​choose​ to hole herself up in her room?  Carrie’s mother didn’t seem to notice her non response. 
       She watched her mother shift through the kitchen, swaying her hips to the Billie Holiday song crooning in the background. Carrie loved her mother, as all children are predisposed to do. But unlike the children she knew, more than the children she knew, Carrie adored her mother. The way her laugh tinkled, the way she captured your gaze when she sauntered in a room. From a young age, Carrie got the sense that her mother was a different kind of woman, different from her classmates’, whose mothers’  brought in cookies for birthday parties, or chaperoned field trips. 
       “It only took about three and a half seconds for me to decide she was a divine being” Carrie’s dad always liked to say, the habitual doting introduction to the familiar anecdote he often told after a few beers. 
       Attitudes like this made it hard for Carrie to believe a divine creature such as her mother could ever ​have borne a mere mortal like her. While phrases such as ‘divine’ and ‘mortal’ come off  rather hyperbolistic, to Carrie this observation was a simple objective truth of life, just the same as the fact her mother was forty five and Carrie was thirteen. 
       Now, perhaps you’ve made some assumptions about Carrie’s mom from what you’ve read so far. You’ve only read what the story has explicitly stated and quite likely have come to your own conclusions based on what has been firmly written. So, let it be written then, that to place the blame of Carrie’s excruciatingly twisted self perception squarely on the shoulders of her mother is quite simply unfair. Let it also be firmly written, before you go too terribly far again, with your assumptions,  that Carrie was really not an unattractive girl in the slightest. Admittedly, she was not a particularly memorable girl but that in most cases has more to do with how one presents themselves, rather than looks. 
       Now that we have these established, let us begin again in the present.
       “Lasagna again?” Carrie glared despisingly at the sinfully delicious mess inside the smooth porcelain white vessel. Her mother let out a sigh as she gazed wearily at her daughter. 
       “Carrie, not more than two months ago you told me this was your ‘favorite dish in the entire world’.” Her mother said, slightly off put by Carrie’s seemingly insolent observation. At that exact moment, for just the most tiny sliver of a second mind you, Carrie felt a deep, pointed contempt for her mother. Of course lasagna was her favorite dish- couldn’t her mother see that was the whole problem? She was gripped by a fervent desire to shake her mother by the shoulders and say-
       ‘Woman I can’t eat this because I would only hate myself more for eating it’ OH how badly Carrie wanted to shout this to her mother! Just then she felt an embarrassing case of passion tears starting to rear its ugly head. With a deep sigh, and a good deal of effort, Carrie composed herself. 
       “You’re right mom, sorry I’m just not that hungry right now” She said, smiling the sweet smile she’d been practicing in the mirror. (The mirror, if you could not tell by now, was a place where Carrie spent far too much time).
       “ Well, alright babes” her mother said, looking hesitantly at Carrie. “You’ve been saying that a lot recently, are you certain you’re alright?” Her voice was steeped with motherly concern. A small voice within Carrie herself told her-
      ‘Now! Tell her it all Carrie, it’s alright she won’t be mad. Tell her how badly you want to eat but you just can’t’ Carrie looked into her mom’s eyes, into the face she trusted most,
       “AW now Rosaria the girl is fine! In fact when I was her age I was just the same way!” Her father bellowed as he entered the room. 
       “Oh! Johnny what great timing! I  just now took the lasagna out the oven” Her mother, ever the ‘perfect wife’, said as she gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. 
       “Now listen here Carrie, if you don’t feel like eating you don’t have to. No one is going to make you do anything you don’t want to.” Carrie’s father remarked earnestly, looking her in the eyes. She silently nodded, gulping down her earlier confession.
       “And besides” he whooped, “More lasagna for me and your mom” He teased, while her mother’s tinkled laughter floated through the room.
       Carrie let out a deep sigh she had not known she had been holding in. She loved her father, truly she did. Sometimes though, he really made her feel as if she was a prop, a background actor in his life. As she grew, she began to become acutely aware of how he relied on the sound of his voice, the waving of his hands when he talked, far more than he relied on his actual words. It really only upsetted her when no one else seemed to see it.
       “Well, let’s sit down then shall we!” her mother said brightly. As she sat down, Carrie felt a sudden all too familiar lightheadedness as the blood rushed to her head. She glanced down at her hand, trying to hold it still. It tremored, shook because of her extreme hunger. She smiled a secret smile to herself. 
       ‘That’s how you know it’s working’. The physical proof of her illness, her disorder, gave Carrie a sick type of satisfaction. What you might notice, is the sharp contrast between Carrie’s readiness to admit to her mother, (and maybe more importantly to herself), that she was in dire need of help, to seeking comfort and even relishing in the very thought of mind for which she had been seeking help. It was terribly contradictory, but so was the thought process behind starving yourself to feel beautiful.
       “Here’s your slice darling” her father said, cutting the corner slice of lasagna, her mother being the only one, of course, who cared for the crispy corner piece. Carrie watched her father, hawk eyed as he began to cut the next slice.
       “DAD! I’ll cut my own slice okay” Carrie spoke, in a near shout. It came out far more harsh than she had meant it to. Her mother and father both paused, eyes slightly wide. She saw the silence side glance they shared, and immediately regretted her outburst.
       Her father wordlessly cut his own slice, then passed the dish to his daughter. Her cheeks burning, Carrie could feel him looking at her, trying to catch her eye. She resolved herself, set her mouth in a firm line and set her eyes on her hands beneath her.
       Carrie’s father was the absolute last person she could ever tell her problem to. Even now, a thoughtless exchange with him at the table left her stomach in guilty knots. How could she ever look him in the eyes knowing he knew what she did to herself? Knowing how little his daughter, who he loved so much, thought of herself? 
       ‘No’ She made up her mind. ‘He can’t know it’. The rest of their family dinner went about as pleasantly as it could have, filled with silent concerned glances, with the (very occasional) bite of food on Carrie’s part. 
       Much later that night, as Carrie stayed awake due to her self induced hunger pains, she thought more of what happened that evening. Staring straight up at her ceiling she wondered if she really would’ve told her mother in that moment. Finally, the fretful, unsatisfying sleep she had become accustomed to overtook her.
       “Carrie, EARTH TO CARRIE”. Carrie startled to attention.
       “Oh! Sorry mom! It’s just you hadn’t made lasagna in so long, It reminded me of something.” Carrie spoke.
       “Oh?” Her mom questioned, gliding about her kitchen in her soft way. “And what did my all powerful lasagna invoke in you, dear girl?” She smiled her witty smile at her daughter
       Carrie watched her mother as she hummed under her breath, swaying her hips almost imperceptibly to a song only she could hear. Carrie was no longer that insecure twelve year old girl, she was no longer a slave to that wicked mirror. She had proved that to herself over many years, through proud strikes of triumph, wallops of defeat she took rather badly, and everything in between.
       It was shockingly nostalgic that day, when Carrie, years after the fact, sat in the same kitchen with the same dish in front of her, and had that same debate over whether to confide in her mother her adolescent disorder.
       ‘If I don’t tell her now, would anything have really changed?’ Carrie’s conscience was all muddled up. Suddenly she felt her mother looking at her, her eyebrows slightly raised in expectation of an answer.
       “Only happy memories of course, mother dearest!” Carrie blurtingly teased as her mother laughed. Carrie felt a pang of remorse, but in that moment she really didn’t quite feel up to breaking her mother’s heart. 
       Later that night as she, her father, and her mother sat at the table she had spent her childhood, she felt it again, that adamant pang of deja vu as she sat in the seat she had spent so many foodless nights.
       She looked at her father, her mother, then down at her plate of lasagna. She sighed, and took her first bite, savoring the flavor. Carrie closed her eyes, letting the taste pleasantly overwhelm her. Then she took another bite, then another, and another and one more and before she knew it she was passing down her empty plate for another slice.
       “Seconds? Adulthood has changed you Carrie, you never used to be much of an eater” Her father chuckled, as he cut her a generous second slice.
       She hesitated as he passed her plate back. She stared into his adoring eyes, really stared, until he became uncomfortable, tilting his head as if to say ‘what is it?’.
       “Mom, Dad, there’s something you need to hear and you need to hear it from me”
       Later that night, after an evening filled with self realization, warm embraces, and an endearing excess of tears expelled  from all parties, Carrie laid in her girlhood bed, staring at the ceiling in reflection. There was an unfamiliar lightness in her chest, as if she had been carrying something heavy and gotten so used to the weight that when she dropped it, it suddenly felt as if she were flying. It was, she would later realize, the feeling of being full, both in her stomach and in her soul.
       And that night, Carrie Mulligan slept sounder than she had in about a decade.

Sofia Hegstrom

“I think self perception, body image and eating is something a lot of young people struggle with. I also feel it’s not something that is often acknowledged, so I wanted to highlight that experience.

When I read that I had won an award, I was very pleased. I hadn’t been expecting anything so it was a nice surprise.”

Tracy Huang

“I was inspired by capitalism for my short story and my own culture ( being Asian American) and basically growing up Asian American for my poem. I was constantly teased because of being Asian American in elementary school and even sometimes up to high school, so my poem  that I am submitting is sort of a mirror of what I went through as a child as well as experiences I either read about or experienced myself. My gold key poem was about my life as a child and current events.

I feel like the work I am the most proud of didn’t actually win the awards that I wanted. My poem that won gold actually was my least favorite and I was sort of sad that I didn’t get a gold for my short story. I am only going to share my honorable mention poetry one because I don’t feel comfortable sharing my gold and silver keys.”

Tracy is an Asian American junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School.

Tracy received 3 awards in poetry and science fiction.

Writing Entries

Mama gazes into my eyes,
Her eyes dark and mysterious
With a sparkle of nervousness,
For our new lives in America,
just like the black pearl
she loves so much
I longed for mama’s eyes,
For mine were dull and brown,
shallow and empty like melted chocolate
on the discount shelf
no one but the desperate will buy
We stand in front of my new school,
Her hands interlace with mine
Zhenzhu, she says, her voice flowing like the wind,
Are you ready for your new life?
I shake my head, wondering why
Mama’s black pearl, the one was missing
Don’t worry about it mama says
As we walk hand-in-hand into my fifth-grade classroom,
Mother and Pearl
My teacher greets me,
Her skin glowing so white,
I almost confused her for the powdered milk
I used to drink in China
She introduces me to the class as Zoe,
A name so foreign yet familiar
At the same time
I put on my biggest smile, hoping to gather acceptance
From my powder-milked classmates.
Yet instead of smiles,
I felt a target placed on my back.
I looked around and saw
my classmates whispering what I would soon learn to be
slurs, each trying to shoot me down
Nothing about me seemed to fit in.
My hair was too inky,
My food was too disgusting,
And most of all, my skin would never match
The milk-powdered color of my classmates
I went home crying to my mother
Who could not understand why
I was so ashamed of my own culture
We never worried about our appearances in China,
My mother says with a heavy sigh,
We were too busy trying to keep our bellies full
To even care about who looked different from us
You don’t understand mama,
I say with a cry,
This is different from China.
Why did you force me to move anyway?
I hate it here.
My mother sighs and tries to hug me,
Like we did back in China when things were rough,
Like when we were Mother and Pearl.
But she doesn’t understand,
Back then, the only thing I had to worry about
Was getting high grades.
After continuously being taunted
by my milk-powered classmates,
I couldn’t take it anymore.
I decided that my only goal was
To become one of them
I removed any hint of my culture.
I started wearing blonde wigs to school,
I threw away the lunches mama spent hours preparing for me
But most of all,
I started bleaching my skin without Mama’s permission.
It didn’t take long for mama to noticed.
Zhenzhu, what have you done to your skin?
She says with a mixture of worry and anger.
Every time I would ignore her,
Saying that I was fine,
Telling her that my name was Zoe
Not Zhenzhu.
Slowly, but surely, the whispers and the taunting disappeared,
I had finally been accepted by my milk-colored classmates,
Yet, I knew I couldn’t stop there.
I binged, I purged,
I did anything that would make
Me look like an American model
Instead of my true self
It got to the point where
My skin would turn red
And I would pass out
For hours after going days
Without food
Mama walked in on one of my sessions,
I was passed out,
Bleach in one hand,
Throw up in the other.
She tries to shake me awake,
But I can’t bring myself to face her,
Zhenzhu, she says,
don’t ever change anything about yourself,
You are so beautiful,
just like the black pearl, I named you after
My eyes flutter open,
Mama, How can you say that?
I scream in anger,
No one except you thinks I’m beautiful,
This is the only way I can fit in,
This is my life and nothing,
Not even your stupid black pearl
Can change that.
Zhenzhu, she sighs,
her breath long and still,
follow me, she motions
I need to show you something.
I reluctantly follow her,
Only to see mama holding an empty velvet case,
Where her once precious black pearl has been
Mama, your black pearl!
I scream
You loved that so much!
She looks down at me with misty eyes
I sold it years ago so we could come to America,
All I ever wanted was for you to have a better life,
I’m so sorry, I feel like I failed you
I knew you were in trouble but I didn’t stop you
Zhenzhu- I mean Zoe, my unfamiliar English name twists in her tongue,
Can you ever forgive me?
My mother, who never cries, began to cry a river of tears,
those tears, tears full of sacrifice,
finally taught me the true meaning of happiness
Mama, it’s ok, you can call me Zhenzhu,
Her eyes dry for a second and she snifts a smile
I’m sorry for not coming to you for help when I needed it the most
But those years taught me something:
I finally realize I’m happy
Not because I look like a milk-powdered model,
But because I have you.
Her tears slowly recced,
Her dark and mysterious eyes start
To fill with happiness,
Our hands intertwine as we both realize,
No matter how much we both change,
We will always be Mother and Pearl

Isabelle is a junior at CVHS and enjoys swimming, filmmaking, taking photographs, traveling, and playing video games.

Isabelle received 3 awards in photography

Photography Entries

Isabelle Jeanjean

“Tri-Cycles: I took this photo in my mom’s hometown, Saigon, Vietnam. During my trip, I wanted to capture the city’s many motorcycles since they are more common than cars in this country. In some cases, motorcycle riders would pack the streets of Saigon. However, I captured this photo to show how beautiful moments can exist within the chaos.

I submitted my photos not expecting to win any award, so I was surprised when one of my photos was awarded a Silver Key. I’m also glad that I had two of my other photos recognized by an Honorable Mention award. Next year, I will be sure to submit more of my photos for a chance to win a Gold Key.”

Gowtham Kadiyala

“Growing up, the one view that always takes my breath away is when the sea meets the sky at the horizon. No matter how many times I see it, it is always fascinating and I wanted to capture that magical moment.

I was very happy and excited to receive the award because it was the very first time I participated in a photography competition. It gave me motivation to continue pursuing my hobby of photography because I learned that I have potential for bigger and greater achievements.”

Gowtham is currently a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School. He loves all things science and math. His favorite hobbies are photography, videography, robotics, and cycling. He also really enjoys nature.

Gowtham received an honorable mention in photography.

Photography Entries

Shree is a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School. Writing has been a big part of her life for a bigger part of my teenage years. She always express herself best through writing rather than speaking and understanding her emotions is easier that way. She loves writing poetry because it allows her to express different points of views to the best of her ability.

Shree received 3 awards in poetry.

Writing Entries

She watches 
As you keep dealing 
Throwing away the cards 
After they have been played
It is all a game for you
Choosing the clubs and spades
Throwing away the diamonds and hearts
Hurting them with your crown
She just wants your heart
But she watches it get thrown in front of her
While you play a sick game
Among five different 
The aristocrats were the 
kings of the 
She was the skinniest 
of them all
She was the epitome 
of perfect,
Smiling at everyone, 
girls were jealous
Yet, she was the saddest 
of them all 
Because she was perfect in 
eyes of all 
And couldn’t let her wall 
Fall apart 
They speak in euphony, 
Why aren’t times changing?
Do you not see how we 
are not 
Being treated the 
same as men?
Loudest of everyone
the attention 
Spewing with confidence
rise above the 
quiet ones 
Quietest of them all 
are the most observant 
Their vigilant eyes 
asses about everything 
They have the most to say 
As they fight their demons 
All blame put on society 
For having certain norms 
To follow by
For being the cause of damage, 
An aura of disturbance 
is created 
We don’t realize that we are
She was a servant to those pills 
They made her happy
For a short while 
They started causing her pain 
Her mind couldn’t be tamed 
She had became a slave to the monster
Her mind and heart were at laido 
Each fighting for control
Making her mind bleed 
Her thoughts were a puppeteer
Pulling at her broken heart and mind
Forcing her to break 
She kept up her facade 
After all it is what the master wants
She held them in the palm of her hand 
It gave her peace midst a war 
With one swallow 
This war would end 
And she would be victor 
She lies in peace 
As her monsters have perished
As her mind lost 
As her heart lost 
Now she is a memory

Shree Kamani

“It was a last minute choice to submit, I submitted about two days before the due date. Since it was last minute I re-wrote some poems I had from previous years, and refurnished them.  My inspiration was to showcase some light on some real-life experiences I went through but through a lenses of someone else. Another inspiration was how much I grew/changed from that experience and looking back now I can really see that I have healed or almost healed.

When I learned I had won an award, I felt normal. I didn’t really expect to get something, but when I did get my two was like “oh ok, better than last year.” Last year I had gotten an honorable mention, and this year I got two silver’s and one honorable mention so it was something that made ma a bit proud and see how much I grew as a writer.”

Emma Kim

“I looked through all my photos I’ve taken over the years and chose the best ones.

When I found out I had won an award, I felt proud considering this was my first time entering the Scholastic competition. Although I didn’t win any keys, I know that I can improve for next year.”

Emma is a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High school. She has loved taking photos since she was little.

Emma received 2 honorable mentions in photography.

Photography Entries

Caoilin is a freshman at CVHS. Her passions are art, design and technology. She likes to build things and work with materials. She is also an environmental activist who has started a non-profit with her friend (bagfreebayous) and enjoys lobbying and advocating for change in environmental policy, mostly concerning plastic bag ordinances.

Caolilin received 3 gold keys in sculpture and painting.

Painting Entries

Sculpture Entry

Caoilin Krathaus

“I’ve submitted three pieces so each piece has a different source of inspiration. For the paintings they focus on my home both interior and exterior views. Explorations in light and shadows and creating an emotional atmosphere to the paintings. For the sculpture, the approach was more intuitive and spontaneous. I dug through scrap and found objects from our family business warehouse and fabricated and assembled with no real narrative other than form, visual movement and structure. 

It always feels nice to be recognized for your efforts.”

Litzy Martinez

“Ever since I took this photo which the subject is one of my best friends, I have been obsessed with it. It brings me so much joy, the lighting is perfect and obviously, the model is so gorgeous with those light brown curls and the beret. I felt like a piece of artwork of this caliber could potentially be seen by judges with admiration. Overall, my inspiration for all of my submission was the fondness I have for photography. 

I felt extremely happy because my photos were selected and it was also my first time participating in Scholastics.”

Litzy is currently a senior at Carnegie Vanguard High School. She loves the Bible, tea, exercising, cooking, and photography. Her favorite type of photography is fashion and portrait. She likes everything unconventional and edits her photos with a little bit of her sauce!

Litzy received 4 awards in photography.

Photography Entries

Kechi Mbah is a Junior at CVHS. She founded Carnegie’s poetry club in late 2019, and recently started writing poetry for the page in August 2020. Her poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Blue Marble Review, The Incandescent Review, and The Courtyard. She is a 2020 semifinalist in Space City Slam (Houston’s largest teen slam competition). Some of her favorite poets are Samuel Getachew and Daniel Blohk. In addition to writing poetry, her hobbies include: reading on the lawn chair outside, learning ASL, watching tiny house videos, playing soccer, and competing in hackathons.

Kechi received 7 awards in poetry.

Writing Entries

A Letter to The Romans 20:20
The last turn in was forever pavement cracked liked baked bread
an opening to the rumbling of hearts
earth showing us you’re here.


I always arrived two inches taller
my heels making rhythm with snow marble floors
fingers dot crossing holy water from my head to my chest.

I felt His presence through the people.

Alive churches make a hum of newborn cries
incense rings a particular smell
and red waxed bibles fit heavy in my hands.

Mass carried songs sung in Latin
and hovering lights stringed in milky yellow.

Gospel bathed the air
while hallelujahs drank from it.

On walls resurrection stories read etched in stone
and pews surrounding whispered “peace be with you”.

I let the chill sway me.

My knees would clip red netted pillows
palms touch and taste the living inside of me.
Eucharist would bubble up within my belly
and I’d feel whole again.

Pixelated prayers don’t do the same.

I now swivel on the office chair
fake leather pulled back like shucked corn.
My polka dot pajama pants swinging against my ankles.

The screen stands wide and loud and tugging for my eyes
but instead I gaze out at hummingbirds dancing through the windows.
The scriptures are the same, and do peal a new poem in my ear.
But the spirit of mass has drawn out to a near drizzle beside me.

A cathedral shrinks to a kitchen
candles unflick
hymns bear a dead chant
while newborns no longer cry.

My soul feels a little more empty.
An Estimated 10,000 Plus Children
Inspired by the PBS POV documentary, “The Rescue List”
Seven was the first time he called anyone master.
The boy’s disk like ribs and twig like bones
painted over with the skin of a man.
The water stretched out ages
felt like the whole world only had room for it
murky brown,
leafless trees.
That day he was ordered to submerge himself in the water
dive deep down
veins of fire burn his eyes
dirty water fill his lungs
retrieve the tangled net drifting to the bottom of the surface.
Inside his head piercing screams emerged
fear was all that lived there.
Although the air was silent
his friend heard,
decided to go instead.
But he didn’t stay long enough to see his friend’s black coily hair
never meet the soft lull of waves at the top of the surface ever again.
For five years fishing and Lake Volta was all he knew.


Twelve was the first time he learned how to write his name.
A man with the same life took him away,
one who didn’t want the tightness of chains to be his only childhood memory.
Brought him to a place with chalkboards and no water
showed him the expansiveness of a classroom.
His stomach no longer stuck in his chest, but rested in his belly.
The boys all around him were the same.
At night he laid his head on a pillow
his face not a sponge to scrub dirt off the floor.
He was allowed to be a child
to play, to laugh, to smile.
It only lasted for a year.
The man had other boys to rescue,
and such little space.
So the man helped look for his mother
searched through villages all over
found her.
The boy’s eyes bit with tears
he cried with his whole body.
Not because he missed her,
but because she was the one that sold him in the first place.
Hatred is a drink.
It sits on a table,
in the middle of the room,
in a frosted glass cup.
The type of glass that is used for office conference rooms
where you can look in and see the blur of a person, but you can’t quite tell who it is.
In this frosted glass cup, I can tell that it’s filled
but I can’t quite tell what color the drink is,
I imagine hatred is red.

I imagine hatred is red,
like the piercing screams of a mother crying out for a son that no longer exists.
I imagine hatred is red,
like veins weaving through eyes set on fire with tears.
I imagine hatred is red,
like the flowing beneath skin spreading paint on walls.
I imagine hatred is red,
like death, like dying
like once was, is no more.

I imagine hatred is….
I imagine,
but then I realize I’m not the only one in the room
and on the other side of the room someone sits
and they see the table in the middle of the room
with the frosted glass cup and they can tell that it’s filled,
but they can’t quite tell what color the drink is
and they imagine
hatred is purple.

Purple like velvet.
Like cape of a king.
Like power.
Purple like badge.
Like badge on a chest.
Like power.



They imagine hatred is purple
like all people that are different, are less.
Purple like the only way to feel righteous,
is to take away the right to live from others.
They imagine hatred is purple
to the point where they no longer want to imagine anymore.
So they run,
to the table in the middle of the room, with the frosted glass cup
And they pick up the cup
and drink
and drink
and drink
And down d
                                         s down their chin
The color red.
And I wonder,
didn’t they see red when they picked up the cup?
And in fact they did,
but they were too blinded by the thought of purple
To even care.
I Hope You’re Waiting for Me
I was fifteen when I first met you.
My heart beat of faulty generators
my eyes glued on to you like dried garri.
I had never seen you in person before.
Up until then, I’d heard mostly one story.
You as bent backwards chewing stick
fixed in a knot
unable to untwine like the rest of the world,
a misshapen kind of being.
But when I saw you,
I knew that none of it was true.

You smelled like freshly fried puff puff
and tasted of palm wine.
At night you danced the shaku shaku
in the morning you sang Igbo hymnals.
You carried me like ankara cloth tying a baby to it’s mother’s back.
Whispered breaths of brown sand
kissed me with your sweet pepper spices.
A love rathe like ugwu.
But I couldn’t stay there forever,
after two weeks I was gone.

I had to return to a land that doesn’t love me.
One that likes to pretend it does.
Plasters our pared brown skin on their bodies
like sweat towel, wrings out our blood.
Puts us in boxes, cartons, cages,
treats it like trapping mosquitoes in closed palms.

So at night I dream yearning for you.
Your love stuck sticky like pounded yam to my fingertips
warm like agege bread
tight like gele wrapped five times around my forehead.
For so long I was taught to grind your name like kola nut against my teeth,
but now all I crave is the softness of your touch.
Nigeria, I hope you’re waiting for me.
I’ll be back as soon as I can.
I’m Balding
My reflection swallows round my eyes like twisted hair beads and pink oil
while the mirror leaks a frightening truth
that I go mad to.

I hold the wishing in my fingers
drenched in castor, tea tree, and peppermint
my scalp only blooms red


                                                    and empty

so this time I pray in gel and satin
and slicked down illusions
that break to the slip of pale brown patches across my head.

The tears seize to swivel outside me
as vanity clenches to the quiver of my chin
and I grow nought and powerless to the motions.

Instead I seek beginnings in empty jars and old photos
“It must have been the tightness of those braids,
or the flaking in that foam”
sticking blame to each fleshy piece on my forehead.

They say I look alot like my Mother,
but in this way I’m akin to my Dad.

So I’ll watch the dragged onslaught of this future
while my body grows beside it

and soft
and candied.

For there are many ways
to walk into womanhood.
Ten days after the celebration of independence
the stew in our stomachs blackened.
Leaving flags teething on the raw grit of sand
our tongues licked down the roof of our mouths
At each crack in the sidewalk lies the memory of a dead Black man
and he hailed from third
so his last breath left a rumbling through this city.
And with it we scratched out the pink from our throats
then held it out fresh
wailing once again for justice.
Wahala will follow anyone
your watch, your car, your bag can be reason.
She feasts on the tears of unforgiving mothers
And follows you down the street
Round the corner
Stealing bellied lifetimes from our people.
Our eyes burn for the hundreds of unnamed men and women
as our skin washes under cold milk,
their drawn spit attempting to pull the fire from our spirits.
But the crackle in our lungs
won’t ever stop.
For these voices shall flame up across all oceans.

Kechi Mbah

“Lagos and Houston: My Cities in protest///My great-grandfather had nine wives

This was a collection of 2 poems and I was inspired to write the first one “Lagos and Houston: My Cities in Protest” because of the BLM and SARS protests that were going on. I was inspired to write the second piece in the collection “My great-grandfather had nine wives” because I wanted to display an alternate perspective, show some of the beauty in pre-colonial Nigeria, and pay homage to my great-grandparents.

I was inspired to write “I’m Balding” because I wanted to write a poem on a topic that I have never really seen written about before or talked about much either. With that want, I decided to create a story of a girl coming of age and becoming a woman while balding.

I was inspired to write “A Letter to The Romans 20:20” because of how some of the beauty in Mass is lost when you have to watch it on a screen.

I was inspired to write “I Hope You’re Waiting for Me” after missing how nice my trip to Nigeria for the first time (2019 summer) was.

Hatred is a Drink ” was a piece I wrote a while ago and it was originally supposed to be a slam poem, but I decided to change it to fit the page and at the last-minute decided I would send it to scholastic. If I am being honest, what inspired this poem, in general, was the frosted glass metaphor and the table.

What inspired “Red Eyed Woman” was a poetry competition that I entered that said they liked weird poems.

This was my first year ever entering scholastics and I only have I more year left since I’m a junior. It was nice to know that even though I just started getting into poetry and even more recently poetry for the page because of the pandemic I’ve been able to have my work recognized. Even though I might look back on particular pieces that I wrote months ago as not that great, it’s nice to know that as I continue and improve my past works are seen in a positive light. I may not believe that particular past works currently represent my writing style, but they are influential on the journey and to be recognized along the way is very encouraging.”

Ayushi Mohanty

“I wanted to draw inspiration from different parts of my life and memories.

I was pleasantly surprised as I actually did not have the date written down for when the results were going to come out, and when I heard my friends talk about their submissions, I went ahead, checked, and did not expect to see a Gold Key!”

Ayushi is currently a sophomore at Carnegie Vanguard High School.

Ayushi received a gold key in poetry.

Writing Entries

Vergib mir
Forgive me 
Forgive me for making a mistake,
sorry my family can’t afford it.
The expectations are high
the risk isn’t low,
and your witty remarks, heartless gibes, and carelessness
isn’t making the journey any better.
Don’t mistake pressure for choosing food 
or picking clothes in the morning
Because you’ve never had your heart skip a beat
from that one comment about the color of your skin, 
where your parents came from, or where you were born
You don’t feel tense walking down the street on your own
You don’t make plans of escape in your head
You don’t question yourself in the mirror every morning 
or hide from the sight of your reflection
Don’t tell me you are losing your jobs and your rights and your money
And that we’ve got it easy
You have gotten it all wrong 
You have made it harder and harder for those who try
For those who come back, 
For those who have fought to make their lives count
Forgive me for being correct
Forgive me
Vergib mir
Do you remember the times…
when you’re at the playground,
Nothing’s moving but the swing…
And it was found,
That the slide was left to slip on its own
Because of a swing
With no more slipping and sliding 
The slide felt a sting
Everything was fine right before they put that swing set
Everything was great I bet.
But that swing kept swinging day and night
It had the trees hanging over like canopies, 
it never got a frost bite
With others surrounding it like a shield 
The slide was left to be on the field
A few come by me and want to slide
But as soon as they see the swing, they say their goodbyes
Nothing’s moving but the swing…
At the playground where the slide felt a sting,
Do you remember those times…
The times which now aren’t part of our taste.
Do you remember those times…
Maybe not because the slide was forgotten in haste.
From the softest skin
To the wavy hair sprinkled with a bit of gray

From the ticklish feet
To the smile that will always stay

A heart filled with adventure
Waiting to finish her bucket list
A smile traveling a million miles
Understanding everything without one to assist

Wise beyond the years
Caring when shedding tears
Daring beyond the eyes
Creating close ties

Like a bind of a book
The tracks of a train
Reminding me of the destination
Anything but detestation

Like the light in the night
The star in the sky
Wanting me to shine bright
For I am her only light

Bursting everyone’s bubble but mine
Always a good sign
When the day is done there’s room for fun
With her hair undone.

She is the one
From the softest skin
To the wavy hair sprinkled with a bit of gray

From the ticklish feet
To the smile that will always stay
Time Immemorial.

Pristine mountains that touched the sky
Nature’s true beauty revealed
Chills that ran down our backs weren’t just from the cold but
From the sublimity of the occasion 

Like the coyote
Its elegant gray fur with gorgeous white streaks 
Its ears perked up and
Its stride so confident 
Even time waited

The trees, oh the trees
Their symmetry was unbelievable 
Each one with the same spikes in the same spot
Statues. Never moving no matter how reckless the wind was
Covering all the territory they could manage 
They were animals.

Mountain Goats 
Ignorant but fierce
Their trot so magnificent 
Bombastically looking in our faces as to brag

Puffs of white floated in the air like snowflakes 
That made dreams come alive
As if it was a romantic movie
Where everyone’s wish came true
This was something more than any wish can give

Twisty roads with an unexpected but unique view at each bend
Clear lakes surrounded by icy alps
Mini flowers like little sequins glittering in the sunlight
Beautiful blue waterfalls that are only a foot long but appear at every curve

The postcard perfect picture
Picturesque indeed it was
The best plan is one that was never planned 
This was the best plan.
No regrets and no mistakes.
This was truly a splendiferous part of life

Time Immemorial.