Northwest Junior High boasts the slogan “The Direction of Success,” and that message shone brightly through a collection of students whose written works won them spots as regional winners by Scholastic. Out of all the students who sent their writing in to the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, 14 eighth graders from Northwest were honored.
There are three levels of achievement in this contest: a Gold Key, a Silver Key or an honorable mention. Northwest has three Gold Key winners (Devon Eberl, Stefan Schmidt and Natalie Shoultz), six Silver Key winners (Francis Bourges, Christine Kallsen, Megan Kann, Jamie Liu, Anthony Pizzimenti and Payton Proud) and five honorable mentions (Hope Anderson, Elizabeth Han, Akiya Law, Fernanda Plata and Logan Zhang).
Even though all of these students were entering the same competition, they all had different approaches toward their writing. Gold Key winner Stefan Schmidt wrote a short story titled “U-boat” about a German U-Boat crew.
“I wanted to write a story that was different from the way most stories end,” Schmidt said. “The books I read usually have happy endings where the hero survives. Mine didn’t. My main character watches as his friends drown in their submarine. His final thoughts are the end of the story. I also wanted to write something from a different point of view. We usually see the German U-Boat crew as the bad guys. My story shows they are ordinary people, too.”
Fellow Gold Key winners Natalie Shoultz and Devon Eberl had different approaches. Shoultz had written her short story “Terror Comes at Night” for English class, and didn’t expect her writing to be such a hit.
“I wasn’t even going to enter,” Shoultz said. “I don’t even think my family knew that I entered.” Shoultz found out that she was a Gold Key winner on her iPod during school, and her parents thought her acceptance email was spam at first. However, Shoultz said that once her family discovered she had won a Gold Key they were very happy for her.
Unlike the other two Gold Key winners from Northwest, Eberl decided to enter two poems for judging titled “Cottage” and “The Night of Broken Glass.”
“I figured I might as well write something and see what I could do with it,” Eberl said. “I’m used to hearing praise from my parents and my teachers, but I never realized how good I was [until I won a Gold Key].”
Gold Key winners will be honored at the State Capitol in Des Moines later this year, but if winners are unable to attend their Gold Keys will be mailed to them. Gold Key winners may also have their works published in a variety of magazines and books, including: Scope magazine, Best Teen Writing and Spark (An anthology of middle school students’ works).
After the regional contest the students’ works were judged further and a select few were chosen as national winners. National winners receive a Gold Medal, Silver Medal or American Visions and Voices Medal and will be honored at Carnegie Hall. Among the national winners are Shoultz and Schmidt. Eberl discovered his works received an honorable mention when he arrived in Des Moines over spring break. Eberl was surprised as he was escorted to the stage to receive his honor.
Northwest English teacher Andrea Keech is proud of her students and confident that they will go far.
“We have a lot of writing talent [in Iowa City],” Keech said. “I would stack our kids against anybody.”