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JHUMCC Writopia Lab Student Honored at Scholastic Writing Awards

by Aliyah DeVille

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Sixteen-year-old Samantha DeStefano knows what to do with pen and paper. Poetry focused on the themes of passion and solitude may seem mature for a teenage poet, but those are the themes that have earned DeStefano recognition from the Scholastic Writing Awards for two years in a row.

DeStefano, a student at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Montgomery County, earned an honorable mention in 2012 for two poems about the different conceptions of paradise and the freedoms and restraints associated with each one. She also won a Regional Gold Key award in 2011 for her other collection of five poems that dealt with the complex themes of the beauty of the natural world and the perception of perfection.  And just in case you’re not impressed yet, this high school student also has written a novella.

DeStefano is a Writopia Lab student at the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus who honed her writing skills under the tutelage of instructor Sinta Owens and Kathy Crutcher, Washington DC Director for Writopia Lab and Regional Affiliate for the Scholastic Writing Awards. Crutcher and Owens guided DeStefano’s work on her submissions for this year’s Writing Awards where she received an honorable mention for two poems that included topics about the conceptions of paradise and freedom and the restraints associated with each one.

Writopia Lab, a non-profit organization that holds writing workshops for kids and teens on campus, has been helping students master all types of writing since its start in 2007, though it’s only been offering these classes on campus for about a year. DeStefano came to the program looking for an opportunity to take her writing to the next level.

“I enjoyed having a place where I could fully concentrate on my writing for up to an hour and a half at a time,” she said.

That time allowed her to not only develop her own ideas but also to take into consideration the ideas of other students in her classroom.

“This experience was helpful because I received constructive comments about my work from my insightful peers and interacted with a group of people who shared my interests,” she added.

Crutcher said offering the program on the JHU Montgomery County Campus has helped the organization make connections in a new geographical location.

"This new partnership has enabled us to work directly with more young writers from Montgomery County,” Crutcher said. “We can help them prepare submissions for the Scholastic Awards or just develop their voice on the page.  We're trying to bring these opportunities for creative expression and recognition to as many young people as we can."

This year’s Scholastic Award Winners were honored in February at a ceremony at DC’s Busboys and Poets where seven students from the campus’ workshops were recognized for their talents. (See a complete list of Writopia Lab DC students who were honored.)

The Scholastic Writing Awards are the country’s largest, longest-running, most prestigious writing competition for teens. Last year, Writopia hosted Regional Awards for the first time, which Crutcher sees as an opportunity for children with creative talents to be recognized.

And with more competitions to come, DeStefano said she’s ready to keep writing and is already making plans to take more classes on the campus.

You can read one of DeStafano's poems, "Vision of a Young Concertmaster," online at The (Parenthetical).  

CATEGORY: Academics, The Arts, K-12 Outreach, Featured, In The Community