A Lasting Impression: How Young Writers are Inspiring English Majors
By Dianira Piceno, Senior English Major
The Scholastic Art and Writing awards have left a lasting impression on English majors at SOU. Since 2016, the scholastic juror position has quickly been filled by English majors who are eager to read and judge the works of young writers across America. Many students are being left in awe and inspired by the stories they have read, leaving them excited to return as jurors for the following year.
The English Program at SOU has a unique partnership with the Oregon Writing Project (OWP), which is an affiliate site of the National Writing Project, a professional development network for teachers of all grades and subjects. The National Writing Project supports teacher-presenters, teacher-consultants, and teacher-leaders all across the United States. The OWP at SOU is one of four Writing Project sites on university campuses in Oregon. The co-directors of the OWP at SOU are the English Program faculty, Dr. Margaret Perrow and Dr. Merrilyne Lundahl.
In addition to offering institutes and workshops for teachers, the OWP also offers summer camps that work in collaboration with the School of Education to host institutes and workshops for teachers and also offers summer camps for young writers, led by some amazing K-12 teachers in the southern Oregon region.
As a result of the OWP working closely with young writers and teachers, the OWP at SOU has partnered with the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards since 2016. The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are a way for teens to find an audience for their creativity. The national annual competition has been around since 1923 and features amazing art and writing by high school students from around the country. Scholastic awards for student writers include scholarships and publications in anthologies like the annual Best Teen Writing. Though the awards are intended for High school students, the OWP offers a way for SOU students to get involved by offering Scholastic juror positions to English majors. Scholastic jurors get an opportunity to read various writing pieces by young authors and get to exercise their critical judgment about the texts they are reading.
Dr. Perrow says that “whether or not students plan to become English teachers, English majors benefit from serving as Scholastic jurors.” SOU students often report being impressed and surprised by the high school submissions they read and judge.
Sarah McCoy, Senior English major, served as a judge for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards 2021.
Sarah McCoy, a senior English major at SOU who participated in the 2020-21 adjudication says that she was “inspired and moved” by the experience. Sarah says it was her love for reading and her skills in writing that encouraged her to become a Scholastic juror. Sarah believes that opportunities like the Scholastic Adjudication are beneficial for English Majors, she says:
“I think it’s great for prospective English teachers to get some experience in “grading” works in a simplified, low-stakes environment; as well as to become aware of the topics that their future students may be reading or writing about. For English Majors interested in something other than teaching, this opportunity can help them improve their own writing skills, as they apply a rubric to student works that they can apply to their own work, in the future. When you have to evaluate other people’s work with a rubric, it can help solidify the things you should try to improve in your own work. Additionally, it’s a great opportunity for any English Major to be able to list on their resume!”
The SOU Scholastic jurors read student writing that spanned a wide range of genres. From short stories, poems, and personal essays, high school students across the country are given the opportunity to write and share their own personal stories. Sarah believes that giving young students the chance to write can be “impactful.”
“Writing helps us know what others go through, and if we are going through something similar, it can provide comfort and a sense of solidarity. It also teaches us about perspectives that we’re unaware of or uneducated about. Writing can also articulate thoughts and feelings inside of us that we don’t know how to put into words, and it helps give shape to those thoughts and feelings.”
Senior English major, Kiersten Faith Hammond, has been very involved in Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Kiersten began working for the English program and the Oregon Writing Project as a project coordinator in September 2019. Kiersten says that her goal as a project coordinator was to “lighten the load for our English professors and Oregon Writing Project directors.” Dr. Perrow says Kiersten has been instrumental in making the Scholastic judging a rewarding experience for SOU English majors.
Kiersten Faith Hammond, English Program and OWP project coordinator.
Kiersten is in charge of advertising and recruiting SOU students to judge for the OWP, assigning panels of student writing to Scholastic jurors, overseeing juror progress, and if she’s lucky, she also gets to read/score some student writing too! Kiersten, who plans to become an English teacher, says that the most rewarding part about being a part of the Scholastic adjudication is “the opportunity to be able to see what kind of obstacles young writers are facing throughout the world.”
English majors and minors, watch for an invitation next fall to serve as a Scholastic juror in 2021-22! In the meantime, email Margaret Perrow if you’re looking for other opportunities to work with young writers this summer.