Three MHS students named winners of Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Fri., Mar. 8, 2013
Manchester High School is proud to announce that Ryan Dube (left), Christopher Philopena (right) and Maddie Fall (seated) were recipients of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for the Northeast Region for 2013. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Minakhom, MHSRedline. - Contributed Photo

Three students at Manchester High School have joined Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote and Joyce Carol Oates as winners of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. For the 2013 Northeast Regional contest, senior Ryan Dube received an honorable mention for his article, “Love and Basketball,” senior Maddie Fall received a Silver Key award for her short story, “Blanks,” and junior Chris Philopena received a Gold Key for his short story, “Easily Tempted.”

Dube's article, “Love and Basketball,” took an in-depth look at the excitement and high emotions that surrounded last year's girls' basketball season at Manchester High School, which was the final season of local superstar Ashley Perez. “The whole season was just a battle. All the fans were at every game, the seats were always packed, it was a great story to see develop,” he said.

When some of the players developed injuries and illnesses, including toxic shock and a brain tumor, Dube's article focused on the struggles on and off the court. “These girls couldn't play or make it to the games because they were in the hospital while the team was playing major games,” he said.

Ultimately, the season revealed a story of athletes overcoming tremendous odds. “They loved the game so much,” Dube said. “It was a perfect story of love and basketball.”

Dube was surprised when he learned he had received an honorable mention. At first, he did not intend to submit a work to the competition, but after being encouraged by English teacher Deborah Weinberg, he sent in “Love and Basketball” at the last minute.

Dube plays baseball, soccer and basketball at MHS, and is involved in the school newspaper, "The Harbinger." He plans on studying psychology in college.

At nearly 5,000 words, Fall's short story “Blanks” pushes the envelope of “short.” Fall began writing “Blanks” in her creative writing class. Her teacher gave her the writing prompt, “If I had a bag of gold...” From there, Fall developed a story about a bank robbery.  Writing from the perspective of the bank robber, as well as the down-and-out police officer opposing him, was a unique experience. “It was a little harder than I thought because I've never robbed a bank and I'm not a police officer,” she said. The story quickly developed a life of its own, diverging from her original story plan.

She remembers her excitement at learning she won the Silver Key. It was a Friday afternoon after school. She had just taken a nap, and decided to check online. When she saw she was a winner, she couldn't contain her excitement. “I was screaming everywhere. I told my mom, 'I was sleeping, but now I have a Silver Key award!'” she said. The news was particularly exciting to her grandmother, who had taught English for 50 years. “My whole family was very excited,” she said.

Fall plans on attending Ohio State next year, and will study psychology.

“Easily Tempted,” for which Philopena won the Gold Key award, is a segment of what Philopena hopes to be a novel-length book. It was inspired by a conversation Philopena had with a coworker at the restaurant where he works. “She just said my problem was I'm a nice kid, and easily tempted by anything,” he said. The work explores themes pertinent to adolescents, such as passion versus love, friends over family, attachment and dysfunctional families.

His winning story explores the reaction of the main female character, Eve, after the death of the male protagonist. “I got into writing the psychosis of it,” he said. “Hallucinations, and feelings of loss, and how people cope with that.”

According to Philopena, the story doesn't end on a happy note, but rather, an ambiguous one. “The ambiguity is, has she recovered, or will she fall even further,” he said.

Like Dube, Philopena works for "The Harbinger." He plans on studying journalism in college, and hopes to be a war correspondent. He was inspired to pursue this path after the death of journalist Tim Hetherington, who died in Libya during the Arab spring.
While happy for the accomplishments of these three students, Deborah Weinberg, the English teacher who inspired them to to submit to Scholastic, would like to see more students get involved in the competition. “There are so many talented student writers who could have been winners in this national contest, but they did not enter the Scholastic competition,” she said. “I hope we have a better turn-out next year.”

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