Five East County students earn recognition at 2016 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
The odds weren't good, but their writing was.
Sifting through more than 200,000 seventh- through 12th-grade entrants, judges for the 2016 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards honored five Out-of-Door Academy students for their work: Melanie Saltz, Simone Timol, Hailey Schlotthauer, Mary Fulton and Nora Altajar.
Nora Altajar earned a Top 5% spot, which means she will find out March 14 whether she earned a national medal and a chance to earn a scholarship worth from $250 to $10,000. Her fictional piece, “Je Ne Sais Quoi,” earned her a gold recognition.
Entrants wrote stories that aligned with one of 29 categories, such as poetry and flash fiction, one- or two-page fictional stories that are shorter than short stories.
The top 10% earned honorable mentions, the top 7% earned silver pins and the select top 5% earned a gold key and perhaps a scholarship.
Altajar's experiences of struggling to communicate with speakers of other languages inspired the two-page story, "Stubborn Horns," she wrote a few months ago, which earned her an honorable mention.
“It’s so difficult to communicate with speakers of other languages,” Altajar said. “Things translate differently and it can be isolating not being able to communicate.”
Although Altajar has lived in East County since she was 2 years old, the 15-year-old spent most summers visiting family overseas.
“I didn’t like going over there when I was younger,” Altajar said. “But now I kind of miss it. I haven’t been back since about 2008.”
The story that earned her the gold recognition, which she said almost qualifies as a poem, analyzes characters from different countries and how they use common phrases and words in other languages, such as French, German, Czech and Japanese.
“One character takes pleasure in the misery of others and not being able to communicate, “ Altajar said. “She enjoys that barrier.”
Her writing has helped her express her feelings in a way that she can better understand, and that she believes translates to other teenagers.
“Writing is the dialogue of your inner thoughts.It amplifies your voice during certain moments in your life; it’s a way to sort through the mess of your own thoughts.” — Nora Altajar, ODA student
Saltz received honorable mention and silver, Simone Timol earned silver recognition, Hailey Schlotthauer earned two silver recognitions and Mary Fulton earned an honorable mention.