Thanks, Arizona, for the memories

Young Authors of Arizona (YAA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit and Arizona’s Scholastic Art & Writing Awards affiliate, thanks volunteers and attendees for making YAA’s 2016 Arizona Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Ceremony on April 16th a special event.

Thanks, Arizona, for the memories and here’s a summary of the 16th.

With curtain drawn at the Desert Mountain High School (DMHS) auditorium in Scottsdale, YAA Board Member Kevin Sheh welcomed the crowd and introduced DMHS’s Grace Gay, YAA’s 2016-2017 YAA Student Leadership Board leader.

Grace performed a dramatic reading of schoolmate Allison Boyce’s 2016 Scholastic Writing Awards Gold Medal personal narrative, Anthem for the Single Teenager, delivering poignant passages like this:

When you listen to all the songs about heartbeats going wild, wonder if what they say could ever be true.  Wonder if there really is someone out there who will help you carry your load of sadness and joy so that you can help carry theirs.  Wonder if someday your tiny blip of an existence will mean the world to someone else.

2015-2016 Student Leadership Board leader Alex Cohen then shared the history of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, highlighted by a video-recorded congratulations from acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns, himself a 1974 Scholastic Writing Awards honoree.

With families and friends smiling, YAA co-founder Kelly O’Rourke read names and YAA Board Member Pearlette Ramos shook hands with many of Arizona’s 300 “young authors,” artists and writers, who stepped onstage to receive their 2016 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Honorable Mention, Silver Key, Gold Key, Silver Medal, Gold Medal, American Visions, and American Voices certificates.

YAA President Billy Gerchick then presented a special slideshow recognizing Arizona’s 19 combined national medal-winning art and writing pieces, American Visions nominees, and American Voices nominees. For the second time in three years, one of the Scholastic Writing Awards’ eight national Gold Medal Portfolio $10,000 scholarships went to a YAA author. Congratulations to this year’s recipient, Hamilton High School’s Ruohan Maio! Congratulations also to YAA authors that won multiple national medals, DMHS’s Allison Boyce (two medals) and University High School’s Alexandra Karaim in Tucson (four medals).

The keynote speaker, acclaimed photographer and philanthropist Jon Linton, delivered a moving speech on art and activism, punctuated with “Color,” a YouTube documentary by local filmmaker Douglass Proce. Color captures “The Garden,” a mural created by Phoenix artist Brian Boner in collaboration with Wayne Rainey, owner of MonOrchid, and Linton, founder of the I Have a Name Project.  Proud to have donated the final $300 to finalize the mural this February, YAA looks forward to supporting Arizona language and media arts through partnerships like these during its “Shine, Arizona!” 2016-2017 outreach campaign; read “Shine, Arizona! through YAA involvement from May of 2016 – April of 2017” towards the bottom of this page for more campaign details.

Gerchick then shared YAA’s 2015-2016 year-in-review and previewed “Shine, Arizona!” campaign key emphases. As Shine: Best Arizona Teen Writing of 2016 Executive Editor, Gerchick was pleased to have Cohen unveil the book.  

Alex, who chose Emma Bayne’s “Portrait” for the cover art, eloquently explained how Bayne, a Tucson Canyon Del Oro High School artist who earned a Silver Key for her Awards’ Senior Art Portfolio entry, captured the ethos of this year’s book title: Shine.

Shine Managing Editor and YAA Vice President Julie Cain extended her thoughts on the book and previewed key areas of 2016-2017 YAA publications growth, notably through a mixed art and writing publication based on 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards entries, lesson plans around content published on the site, YAArizona social media, and other media endeavors.

Grace Gay then closed the ceremony, welcoming our young authors, artists and writers, to share ideas for Student Leadership Board involvement during the “Shine, Arizona!” campaign.

From 7:00 – 8:30, Arizona’s most creative grade 7-12 teens, as well as their families, mentors, supporters, and friends, enjoyed the evening’s reception in the school lobby, enjoying home-made tamales, light refreshments, and delicacies. Special thanks to DMHS and other student volunteers!

YAA also answered questions about upcoming planning, events, publications, and 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards participation. Of note, Paradise Valley Community College English’s Dr. David Pegram was on-hand to answer questions about the June 27-30 YAA-PVCC Author Camp for Fall 2016 grade 9-12 writers.

Shine books were sold and you can still get copies online through; all proceeds help YAA support Arizona language and media arts. Special thanks to 2016 Writing Awards Judge Patty Paddock and Shine Poetry Co-Editor Debbie O’Dowd for helping at this table.

In case you missed the ceremony

If you missed the ceremony, YAA will mail your certificates; also, only for authors published in Shine that couldn’t make the ceremony, you’ll get your free copy in the mail. Please allow YAA through May 27th to raise the necessary money and to complete these mailings; we’re volunteers, mostly educators, that need to focus on finishing the school year.

“Shine, Arizona!” through YAA involvement from May of 2016 – April of 2017

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Young Authors of Arizona (YAA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit, encourages Arizonans to mentor grade 7-12 Arizona students to participate in the annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. YAA is also …

Each year, YAA needs to raise at least $10,000 to perform the above-stated functions for Arizona youth language and media arts. With over 1,700 middle schools and high schools in Arizona as well as many more libraries and community centers, YAA seeks to involve more Arizonans like you through our Shine, Arizona! 2016-2017 outreach campaign, with the 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards as the scope and centerpiece for our growth.

“Shine” by taking the Shine, Arizona! YAA involvement survey and donating (tax-deductible PayPal link at right) to support Arizona language and media arts!

Read Shine: Best Arizona Teen Writing of 2016 

April 16th marks the official marked the release of YAA’s Shine: Best Arizona Teen Writing of 2016 book, an anthology of 87 works by 58 grade 7-12 Arizona authors. Please support our authors by purchasing a book copy (click link above), available for $15 with all proceeds going to YAA, a 501(c)(3) focused on supporting Arizona language and media arts.



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