McLean students win at Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

Over 30 students from school placed at the regional competition

Junior Zhiyi (Zoe) Li poses with her certificate after winning Gold Key in the Regional Writing Awards of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

Zhiyi (Zoe) Li

Junior Zhiyi (Zoe) Li poses with her certificate after winning Gold Key in the Regional Writing Awards of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

Writopia Lab, the D.C. Writing Region part of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, released a list of people on Jan. 27 whose submissions were able to receive recognition from its panel of judges. Many of the winners were students from McLean High School who received honorable mentions, Silver Keys and Gold Keys.

“This year, in total for the whole school, we had 30 placements,” Creative Writing teacher Seth LeBlanc said. “Several of [the students] will be moving on to the national level now.” 

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is an annual national writing and art competition. Students sponsored by a teacher submit artwork, essays, stories and articles to a panel of judges. At McLean, many teachers encourage their students to participate and showcase their skills.

“The Scholastic Awards was a motivating factor for me to write, knowing that I have an audience that can [recognize] my viewpoints,” said junior Zhiyi (Zoe) Li, a Gold Key winner. 

The journey to submitting an entry requires ample hard work and preparation. For the writing category, students must write multiple drafts, revising constantly before their work is ready to be submitted. 

“One of the best things that a student can do is probably take Creative Writing, because then it’s built into the course,” LeBlanc said. “They have an opportunity to revise it several times and get tons of feedback from peers and from me.”

Submitting artwork to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is a similar process. Students must also invest their time into expressing themselves through mediums of art.

“I wanted to make sure I had a good variety of distinct photographs rather than having them all be the same,” said senior Zaynab Rashid, a Silver Key winner. “The biggest thing I wanted was to make sure that each piece highlighted something different, whether that be different skills, different subjects or different editing styles.”

LeBlanc emphasizes that students should target certain ideas and avoiding trying to develop too many works.

“For a competition that focuses on quality, a lot of the time, ‘small’ is better,” LeBlanc said. “So focusing on one of two particular themes in a short space, [such as] a simple metaphor and simile, makes a huge difference.” 

Additionally, the competition also provides students the opportunity to showcase their identity through their artwork or writing, which can be a daunting task for some.

“In general, you have to be vulnerable and that, by the nature of it, can be uncomfortable,” LeBlanc said. “However, the best writing is whenever a writer is able to tap into those emotions and to learn to become comfortable with them.”

Winners may not intend to pursue writing or fine arts as a career, but they’re still looking forward.

“At the end of the day, I view the competition and its medals as motivators for me to continue writing,” said junior Ellen Pan, a Gold Key winner. “However, the enjoyment and experience that comes from the process is far more important than the result.”