Competing against thousands of middle school students from across the Northeast, four West Orange residents, along with six fellow classmates from the 7th and 8th grades at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy were awarded top prizes in the prestigious Scholastic Writing Awards competition for their literary submissions.
In a separate Writing Portfolio category open only to high school seniors, 12th-grader and Livingston resident Edyt Dickstein was awarded the top Gold Key prize for her work.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition is the oldest and most esteemed student writing competition in the nation, recognizing the work of creative teens across the United States. Competing in the “Northeast Region-At-Large,” the Kushner students were up against top students from throughout Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards accepts submissions in 28 categories of art and writing, and students have the chance to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited or published.
The impressive list of previous literary awardees includes writers Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, and Joyce Carol Oates. The Scholastic Awards submissions are juried by top names in the visual and literary arts, some of whom are past award recipients. Notable past jurors include Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Paul Giamatti, Judy Blume, Lesley Stahl, and David Sedaris.
Mentored by acclaimed novelist and lecturer Dara Horn (In the Image, The World to Come, All Other Nights, and the forthcoming A Guide for the Perplexed), the students were able to hone their skills with Horn as part of a guest lecturer program in the school’s Language Arts department. The students submitted work in such categories as Flash Fiction, Personal Essay/Memoir, Science Fiction, Short Story, and Poetry.
“I am thrilled with the results of the competition,” Horn said. “The students are such gifted, thoughtful writers, who exhibited dedication and creativity throughout the writing process. For their submissions to obtain recognition on this level is a testament to the caliber of their work.”
The West Orange award winners were Elisheva Feldman, Rebecca Cohn, Samuel Kaplan, and Leora Pineles. While the work of all eleven students received impressive awards, the work of 12th grader Edyt Dickstein and 8th grader Samuel Shersher received the highest accolades - obtaining the esteemed Gold Key level award and will be entered into the nationwide competition, the results of which are announced in March.