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Scholastic gives awards to local students

Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 13, 2020

 Shelby Junior High School eighth-grader Molly Wittwer earned  a National Gold Medal for her photograph, “Backstage.”

Shelby Junior High School eighth-grader Molly Wittwer earned a National Gold Medal for her photograph, “Backstage.”

Artwork by Molly Wittwer

 Eisenhower High School senior Samantha Caballero won a National Gold Medal and a National American Visions Medal from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her portrait painting, “Looking Up and Arbitrarily Losing Touch.”

Eisenhower High School senior Samantha Caballero won a National Gold Medal and a National American Visions Medal from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her portrait painting, “Looking Up and Arbitrarily Losing Touch.”

Artwork by Molly Wittwer

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Even while much of the world is trapped indoors, local creativity and artistic expression continue to inspire.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards program recently chose the artwork of four Utica Community Schools students and made them national award winners. The national contest was open to students who had already received regional recognition from the program.

This year, Eisenhower High School senior Samantha Caballero won a Scholastic National Gold Medal, a National Silver Medal and a National American Visions Medal. She said she submitted a portrait painting, “Looking Up and Arbitrarily Losing Touch,” as well as a digital illustration, “Thursday’s Orange.”

Caballero, 17, said she has been drawing “forever,” and she frequently does digital illustrations. But she only recently started painting, adding that her award-winning portrait is probably only her fourth or fifth painting ever.

“But I picked up oil really quickly. I really loved it,” she said.  

Caballero said she takes her inspiration and style from many painters, particularly Henrik Uldalen and Emilio Villalba. She said she was excited and confident to submit her work this year because she learned what the organizers were looking for last year, after she received a silver medal for other work.

She also discussed, as a high school senior, what life is like now, knowing that the rest of the in-class school year is over. 

“I think everyone (has thought), ‘I hate school.’” she said. “You don’t want to be in school, but it’s kind of sad. … Classroom time is important.”

She said that after she graduates she plans to attend the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. In the meantime, she is continuing to make new art at home.

“I just finished a huge painting — it’s about 4 feet tall,” she said. “I guess I  have more time to sit with myself and figure out what I like to do.”

Molly Wittwer, an eighth-grader from Shelby Junior High School, received a Scholastic National Gold Medal for her photograph, “Backstage.” 

Wittwer, 14, said she previously liked to take pictures while on vacation, and this was the first school year that she delved into photography. She said she took the class because she thought it would be fun. 

She said she did the photo because her teacher, Chris Brunson, gave her an assignment to do early this year, and the idea “just kind of popped into my head.” Then she contracted a friend, Ava Borngesser, who wore her ballet gear, including a tutu, and did some simple poses in it.

Wittwer said she learned a couple of weeks ago that Scholastic had given her the award. She said she was confused, and she didn’t know that it was a national award at first.

“I was very shocked,” she said. “I had to read the email over.”

Wittwer said the winners would normally go to New York to celebrate their achievements, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has opted to do an online presentation instead.

Like Caballero, Wittwer said she has been keeping her creativity alive during this season of staying at home. Besides photography, she has been taking online dance classes and has been studying for an Advanced Placement geography test.

“Just for fun I’ve been editing some photos and just taking random photos just to stay active,” she said. “Dancing is a big part of my life.” 

UCS’s other two award winners received National Silver medals. Utica High School junior Jacob Schick submitted a drawing called “Starring Off,” and Henry Ford II junior Savannah Salisbury submitted a photograph titled “Curiosity.” At the regional level, UCS students took an estimated 200 honors.

In a statement, UCS Superintendent Christine Johns said her district’s reputation for arts education helps foster student expression and creativity.

“As demonstrated by continued state and national recognition, our students’ artwork is consistently at a level that matches work displayed at professional galleries,” Johns said.

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards organizers say the program has honored youth and teens for their creativity since 1923.

Find out more about Utica Community Schools by visiting www.uticak12.org. Find out more about the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards by visiting artandwriting.org.

Call C & G Newspapers at (586) 498-8000.

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