Student Work

2020 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

By Yee Kit Chan (Class of 2022)

Five students from the Girls’ Division of Developing Virtue Secondary School won awards in the 1st round – the regional round – of the prestigious Scholastic Art and Writing competition on January 31, 2020. Eight entries among the five students won in the categories of Poetry, Critical Essay, and Photography.

This year, the winners in the regional round are: Thanh Tieu, Sophia Liu, Rachel Blythe, Yee Kit Chan, and Amy Liu.

Descriptions of each award-winning work are found at the bottom of this article. Results for the national round come out on March 16, 2020.*

Scholastic Gold Key (source:

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is a national competition held every year for students ages 13 and up in America and Canada. It includes two separate competitions, one for Arts – such as Painting, Film, and Digital Art – and one for Writing – such as Humor, Short Story, and Science Fiction. Students may submit to a total of 29 categories.

Awards include Gold Keys, Silver Keys, Honorable Mention, or American Voices & Visions Nominations. The judging criteria: Originality, Technical Skill, and Emergence of a Personal Voice or Vision.

Award recipients are chosen by panels of creative professionals. Among 340,000 works of art and writing, about 2,700 are chosen. 

In previous years, DVGS students have received regional awards as well as national ones. In 2018, Maggie He (Class of 2018) received a National Silver Key for her poem “10 Things I Know To Be True.” 

When I first heard about the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, one of my immediate reactions was dismissal. Because I had heard that the competition was a national one, I felt that it would prove to be fiercely competitive and placing in it would be next to impossible. As a result, though I knew people who were submitting their own literary works, I took little notice, thinking that such achievements were beyond me.

However, on the day of the deadline, a reminder announcement was made, prompting anyone who was even a little interested in the competition to fill out the forms in the remaining hours before submissions closed. People around me began to ask me whether I planned to submit any of my work. Still, I said no.

What place did I have in a national competition?

Nonetheless, when someone told me that a teacher had recommended me as a contestant, I began to doubt my previous decision. Intrigued, I began sifting through my past writings, wondering if any of them had the potential to be recognized. The idea still seemed highly unlikely, but I decided to try. A bit of a rush ensued, but luckily, I submitted my work before the deadline.

On January 31, the regional winners were announced. As soon as the clock struck midnight, I hurried to check the website.

Not daring to get my hopes up but wishing not to be disappointed, I clicked on the PDF file listing the recipients of the writing awards. My eyes widened when they lit upon the name of someone whose first name looked oddly like mine – no, it was mine.

Finding out that I had gained recognition in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards came as a pleasant surprise.

Through this process, I learned not to simply dismiss opportunities just because I thought they were unattainable. Faith in one’s own skills should be a credible thing, but just because I myself may feel that my written works are lacking, that does not mean that others do, too. 

On further reflection, I should not need to rely on outside validation. I must remember, too, that this recognition is but momentary, and I should neither become complacent nor take such awards as my only source of security.

Below are descriptions of the award-winning works from DVGS in the authors’ and photographers’ own words.

Click the picture to see the bigger version.

In the Clouds
Thanh Tieu (’20)

Photography Silver Key

November, 2018. Montreal, Canada. Tower of the Olympic Stadium. While many were enjoying the breathtaking view down below, one decided to look up toward the sky.

Her fingers brush the dreams wished upon the clouds.

Simple Pleasures
Sophia Liu (’20)

Photography Gold Key

Summer, 2017. Southern China. The two elderly men pictured with confectionery were strangers who were sitting across from my family in the passenger train. 

The moment captures simple childhood pleasures that remain with old age.

Crossing the River
Sophia Liu (’20)

Photography Gold Key

Summer, 2019. Reedsport, Oregon. Photo taken from a bridge. The boy ponders over his next step, while the girl guides her younger sister through the mire.

Behind the lens, the kids’ trip to the river seemed full of hidden dangers and intrigue.

Sophia Liu (’20)

Photography Gold Key

Summer, 2018. Guest House, CTTB. The lattice-like strips arc across the interior of the lamp, forming spirograph art.

Gazing down into a lamp, we seem to be staring up at the sky.

Three students were also presented with Writing awards. Below are their reflections on their works.

The Big “I”
Rachel Blythe (‘22)

Poetry Honorable Mention

The poem I wrote is about human ego. For the Scholastic Art and Writing competition, I thought it would be a nice opportunity for young students to be able to express themselves in an open space without being judged. Since I was young, I have always questioned why the “I” had to be capitalized in every sentence. So I committed to writing the poem, “The Big ‘I'”, to address the nature of human ego and how it destroys us and sabotages our relationships with others.

“So I Won’t Forget”
Amy Liu (‘23)

Poetry Silver Key

This poem, composed of snippets of past and present moments, is a reminder for my future self about what I am made of and where I come from. The thirteen three-line stanzas in the poem are footholds for me as I journey through the river of time that is constantly flowing by. When I look back, they stay intact and steady, above the blur, guiding me, so I won’t forget my roots and heritage.

Read it here.

“A Tribute to Friendship”
Yee Kit Chan (‘22)

Silver Key

At this particular point in my life, I valued friendship highly. Each verse of my poem calls up specific memories from different times and different people. Rereading the poem brings me back onto a long-untraveled path of remembrance and nostalgia.

To Sleep or Not to Sleep?
Yee Kit Chan (‘22)

Silver Key

Most essays, if not all essays, stem from some sort of inspiration. As an inefficient and distracted eighth grader, I often stayed up late putting the finishing touches on my latest assignment or devoting a few more hours to last-minute studying. Almost nobody around me committed to such a sleep schedule, and in some ways, I was proud to be hardworking. However, a terrible sleep schedule takes its toll, as I soon found out while researching my paper.

Read it here.

*Sophia Liu (’20) received a Silver Key for her photograph “Simple Pleasures” in the national round of the 2020 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Competition.

Special thanks to Jin Jr Shi, Ms. Applebee, and the Scholastic Art and Writing competition organizers.