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US Students Earn 2024 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

The Upper School is proud to announce the following young authors who earned recognition in the Personal Essay and Memoir category of the 2024 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. The three Silver Key winners, all in the Class of 2027, included: Bryce Haney, Keira Mooar, and Sloane Paulus.

Zhaoling Liu ‘25 earned Honorable Mention for his work, while the following writers from the Class of 2027 also earned Honorable Mention: Jessica Gallagher, Annaelle Petit-Homme, Oliver Olson, Tara Ozdemir, and Jessie Yuan.

Elizabeth Yang '25 won a Silver Key in the Short Story category.

"We are so proud of our emerging essayists," said Ms. Leslie Patient, Upper School English Faculty member.

Writing samples from Jessica Gallagher and Annaelle Petit-Homme are below: 

Protecting My Passion by Jessica Gallagher
I stood, looking at my frizzy hair and suntan tights in the mirror. It was December 2021: I was attending OHA, my divorced parents just began co-parenting therapy, and I was enjoying life. It seemed simple; I had nothing to worry about other than the excessive amount of schoolwork from my math teacher, Miss Schick, and keeping on top of assignments for my English teacher, Ms. Lockwood. Though it seemed earth-shattering to me if I forgot an assignment for school, nothing was as important as dance. Dance was more than just an extra-curricular activity to me–it was my coat in the winter when frostbite was nipping at my nose. It was my package of tissues when I was sick. Most importantly, it was the therapist I didn’t know I needed; It was one of the many things in life we constantly take for granted and never recognize the importance of until they are snatched away by the hostile, icy hands of cruelty. I never pondered this in my heart, but I sensed that it was banging on locked doors, trapping them in the furthest recesses of my brain where they were held hostage for years, desperate to escape. If I peered two months into the future, I would have seen this flooding out of the prison they were in for so long, along with worries about never being able to dance again.
I was in Miss Beth’s tap class at the Perna Dance Center on a Thursday night. She was making a number to the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, and I received a solo in which I had to perform 127 pullbacks, a jump where the feet are articulated to make two sounds. I did excellent pullbacks; every tap teacher told me the same thing, so I looked at my long, blonde hair in a ponytail, and my glassy, hazel eyes confidently in the mirror, knowing I would be able to fulfill the task. I executed twenty pullbacks, but when I continued, I tripped on a screw from someone’s tap shoe. Thinking, No matter what happens on stage, always finish a number, I finished perfectly. I didn’t care about the pain I felt; I was happy to leave and eat dinner. Class was over, so I put on my hot pink PDC jacket and boots, and met my mom in her car. “How was class?” she asked. I replied, “Good,” not thinking anything of the impact occurred. I opened my water bottle, craving the contents more than anything else in the universe. The car ride home was quiet; it was the same way back to my mom’s apartment that I had seen through car windows since I was three. When we arrived home, it was still early, so I threw my dance bag onto my bed and headed to the kitchen. I followed my usual nighttime routine as if nothing had happened, and headed to bed without a worry in mind.
I woke up the following morning, thinking about the quiz I was going to have. I tried to get out of bed, but when I tried to stand up, I heard a loud, banging noise. THUNK. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor next to my bed, and my mom was walking into my room to ask if I was alright. I tried to stand up, but as soon as I put weight onto my left leg, I felt a sharp pain encasing my knee. I was visibly uncomfortable, and my mom asked me, “What’s going on? What happened?”. Quickly, I replied, “My knee hurts.” We knew that I wouldn’t be able to get through the day in that condition–the campus of my school was too large to try and walk to class like that. My mom made an appointment with an orthopedist and I emailed my teachers to ask for the classwork and homework for the day. Once an appointment was confirmed, I called my dad to fill him in. He consoled me, and it wasn’t long before I was reaching for the bottle of Ibuprofen on the table beside me. Sometimes, the things that relieve us in the moment are the ones that harm us most. 
Four months later, I sat in Dr. Ganeley’s office at CHOP. I was diagnosed with a cartilage fissure in my left knee by Dr. Winnel, but we were going to get a second opinion because Dr. Ganeley specialized in cartilage injuries. Dr. Winnel told me I needed surgery, but it could mean that I could never dance again or I would need seven months of rehab. I would lose everything I gained in dance. I knew I couldn’t leave my world behind; there had to be a way around it. After waiting for fifteen minutes in the blue-walled room with green accents, Dr. Ganeley came in to inspect the damage. “Jessica?” he asked.
“That’s me,” I replied.
“You won’t need another x-ray or MRI, because the ones taken when you saw Dr. Winnel are valid,” he said, “can you move your leg for me?” Dr. Ganeley looked pensively from the MRI to my knee, asking me to move over and over. “Well, Jess, you have broken the cartilage badly–it goes bone to bone,” he said as I sat, awaiting his diagnosis, “But you should be able to dance in a few months. This issue in your knee shouldn’t be major now–you’ll have early arthritis, but that’s not what I’m here to diagnose you with. Though the cartilage in your knee’s broken, it looks like we can still salvage it. The issue is you’ve developed a mild case of CRPS, a neurological disorder. You’re feeling pain that you shouldn’t be feeling. I’m not saying this won’t be uncomfortable for you occasionally, but you shouldn’t be in this much pain. I’ll write you a script for physical therapy.” All the worry weighing me down alleviated. Maybe, I would be able to go home.

The French Years by Annaelle Petit-Homme

I’ve been surrounded by language my entire life. I expected nothing less, being born into a Haitian family. I remember my dad going between Haitian Creole, French, and English and how he could go from talking about food in English to passionately talking about Haiti’s soccer team in Creole. It’s widely accepted in the Haitian community that learning French translates into learning Creole. Determined for me to follow this pipeline, my parents put me in a thousand different French programs. Some of my earliest memories are of attending French school and studying the language for two hours. If everything had gone to plan, I would be completely fluent in French, possibly even Creole. But I’m not. 

I remember the moment I thought learning a different language was dumb. It was after one of my fourth-grade French classes as I returned to class.
“Don’t you just hate Madame? My friend Emma walked next to me.
“Yeah, she’s so mean! What about you, Annaelle?” my friend Anna said next to me. 
“Yeah, sh-she is kinda mean. I don’t really like her.” I replied.
“Why do we have to learn French anyway?”
“It’s so stupid! When will we ever have to use it anyway?” I said, just trying to fit in.

That was the beginning of the end for me. Eventually, what my friends and I were saying started to seep in until I completely believed it. It was one of the many things I took for granted, the fact that I lived in my fourth-grade mind and  didn’t realize that learning French or any other language benefited me.  It was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made.

By fifth grade, I had already lost some of the language and was down to only saying phrases like Comment ça va? (How are you?) and Je vais très bien, et toi? (I’m doing very well, and you?) and the numbers up to ten. The COVID years brought along the opportunity to learn French again. Determined to get me back on track, my dad placed me in an online French school during the summer. Instead of trying to learn the language, I didn’t even try. I thought to myself: Google translate exists, why do I need to learn French? I can say bonjour and merci, translate will take care of the rest. I wanted to make sure that I did absolutely nothing.  I did my homework during class and played Roblox during lessons. The summer had finished, and I had learned nothing while my classmates were well ahead of me.

Sixth grade was the year of nothingness, language-wise. Most people had decided to go back in person then, but my parents decided to keep me home out of caution. No one was thinking about French then. My parents tried to ensure I  didn’t lose the basics:Math, Science, History, and English. Forget about the rest of it. I just had to ensure I got through those four subjects, and the rest would fall into place. Language didn’t, though. It just remained out of place, a disregarded part of my life.

Seventh grade was the year of my language intervention. As my parents had insisted, I was taking French again.

“Annaelle, you’re going to take French this year.” my dad said one day in August.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because learning French will help you learn Creole, and it’s time that you get back on track.” 
“But French is useless. I’m not going to use this ever again.” I snapped back.
“ It’s not just about using it again. It’s about culture. You cannot be Haitian and not know French. It’s a basic part of our culture, and you need to learn the language.”

That was the end of the discussion. I was going to retake French.

On the first day of class, my teacher, Madame Peters, saw that my name was French and asked me if my parents spoke French at home often.
“Oh, Annaelle, your name is French!” she said excitedly.
“Yeah, it is.” 
“Est-ce que tes parents parlent souvent français à la maison?” she asked.
“Est-ce que tes parents parlent souvent français à la maison?” she asked again.
“Sorry, I still don’t understand.”
“ Do your parents speak French at home often?” she asked in English.
“Oh, uh, yeah they do sometimes.”
It was embarrassing. The girl with the French name couldn’t even answer a simple question. My laziness, my stubbornness, had caused me to be here. From that day, I was determined to get back on track with French.

In eighth grade,  I kept up my efforts. I tried my hardest and studied instead of what I had done my fifth grade summer. Gone were the days of doing homework while I was walking over to class. French became one of my priorities that year. I made sure to go to extra help.  I wanted to make sure that I kept going in my progress. I finished the year with a 95 average, better than I had expected. I don't think I've ever seen my father prouder.

Now, I’m in French II and doing pretty well. I regret quitting French and am trying to make up for it now. Would it have been better if I had never stopped? Of course. But making up for mistakes is better than never doing it. Hopefully, in the future, I will be fluent in French and potentially Creole.


Ranney School

235 Hope Road
Tinton Falls, NJ 07724
Tel. 732.542.4777

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