Three senior students, Maurice Leon, Turiya Moka, and Casey McKee, earned the Gold Key, Silver Key, or Honorable Mention in the Pinellas County Scholastic Regional Art & Writing Awards 2021.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious scholarship and recognition initiative for creative teens across the country in grades 7-12 with 29 different categories to submit work into. All works are evaluated through blind adjudication first on a regional level by more than 100 local affiliates of the Alliance and then nationally by an impressive panel of creative industry experts if a student receives a Gold Key. Jurors look for works that exemplify the Awards’ core values: originality, technical skill, and the emergence of personal voice or vision. Our students join a notable list of alumni recipients including Richard Avedon, Truman Capote, Stephen King, Sylvia Plath, Robert Redford, and Andy Warhol, and more recently, Richard Linklater and Zac Posen.
Silver Key – Poetry – “Gone”
Gold Key – Computer Art
Scholastic Gold Key entries are automatically considered for national awards, including Gold Medal, Silver Medal with Distinction, Silver Medal, and direct scholarship awards.
Maurice is a senior day student from St. Petersburg who has attended Farragut since the 6th grade. He is involved in Interact Club, National Honor Society, Poetry Club, Multicultural Club, and the Varsity Track and Field team. He is also the founder and organizer of The HOPE Project, a service organization that he operates outside of school. He has won several writing awards in the past, including 1st place in the 36th Annual Stanley Shalit Short Story Competition, as well as a Scholastic Silver Key, both while he was a junior last year.
“The inspiration behind my piece comes from lived experiences and the experiences of others,” Maurice said. “Our world is filled with stories and ideas, those that are distributed through the media, and those that we see with our very own eyes. The surge of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the atrocities committed against Black Americans in our Nation’s distant history, and in the modern era, serve as sources of inspiration as well.”
Maurice credits English teacher Mrs. Ewing and Art teacher Mrs. Hocker for fostering his creativity through personal and creative discovery. “They both took a hands-off approach in terms of instructing me,” he said. “The creative freedom they gave me allowed me to develop my own artistic and authorial style that led to my success as an author and artist.”
Maurice loves writing and plans to take his writing and art to the next level with classes in college and one day he hopes to publish a full-length work.
Honorable Mention – Poetry – “Basking in Oblivion”
Turiya is a senior day student from Seminole who has attended Farragut for ten years. She is a member of the Varsity Volleyball team, Mu Alpha Theta, Vice President of Spanish National Honors Society, President of the National Honor Society, and is Secretary of the Interact Club. This is her first time winning a writing award.
“This poem is a summation of the thoughts I’ve had going into graduation,” Turiya said. “I’m amazed about how my classmates and I have turned into the young adults we are today over my decade at Farragut. The process of coming into our own is something everyone undergoes, but that experience for everyone is extremely personal. The subject of this poem has those same thoughts as they undergo that process, a process they are initially afraid of like I was. During that time, the subject basks in their oblivion as they ‘follow the/her light’, an entity I constantly redefine as different aspects of my life when I look back at this poem.”
English teachers Mrs. Ewing and Mrs. Craven nurtured Turiya’s love of literature. “They have introduced me to so many pieces of literature that encompass different aspects and perspectives of the human experience,” Turiya said. “Their classes reintroduced to me what I love about the arts and inspired me to write poems about my experiences. I never intended to submit my poems, but Mrs. Ewing’s kindness and confidence in my writing persuaded me to submit them to the Scholastic Regional Art & Writing Awards.”
Turiya isn’t planning to write professionally, but she does hope to keep at it as a hobby and would like to take a poetry class or join a poetry club when she gets to college.
Honorable Mention – Personal Memoir – “What’s Next”
Casey is a senior day student from St. Petersburg who has attended Farragut since the 6th grade. She has played on the Varsity Volleyball team since she was a freshman and Varsity Soccer during her sophomore and junior year. She is the Drum Major of Farragut’s marching band and orchestra, and flute and piano are her primary instruments. This is her first time winning a writing award.
“In my personal memoir, which was originally written for my college applications, I aimed to capture several core memories from my childhood that clearly defined my long-term goals and aspirations I plan to carry into the future after graduating,” Casey said. “As a child, I was always determined to be successful at whatever task I put my mind to. Now, as a senior, a large part of my year has included receiving college acceptances. This has been undoubtedly an exciting, terrifying, and heart-wrenching experience. However, I feel that my determination towards success remains bigger than my fear of failure, therefore, trusting the process became a large factor in the composition of my memoir.”
Throughout her education at Farragut, Casey was always told that Mrs. Ewing would enable her to flourish as a student and a writer. She never truly understood the extent to which Mrs. Ewing would impact her life, though, until she became her student. “One of my past English teachers once told me, ‘Mrs. Ewing is great. Get as much from her as you can,’” Casey said. “I never felt confident enough in my writing skills to enter any of my pieces into writing competitions like the Scholastic Regional Art & Writing Awards until I became a student in Mrs. Ewing’s AP Literature class. Whether she is reading the posts on my blog or providing feedback on a prose essay, Mrs. Ewing has undoubtedly supported me and my aspirations as a writer by challenging me in and out of the classroom every day. For these reasons, I will be forever grateful that I was able to be her student.”
Casey was recently accepted into the University of Texas at Austin as a Journalism major at the Moody School of Communication. After receiving her B.A. in journalism from UT, she plans to either continue her career as a journalist or utilize her writing skills in law school.