Ceremony to recognize 52 students with Nebraska Scholastic Writing Awards

Best of Nebraska Teen Writing 2024 book coverHastings College is hosting an awards ceremony Friday, April 5 to recognize 52 outstanding young writers from across Nebraska as an affiliate of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. College faculty and Kiara Nicole Letcher, the author of “Scream Queen” and soon-to-be-released “Oxblood,” will host a workshop for recipients beginning at 1:00 p.m. on campus, followed by the ceremony, during which Letcher will speak.

Of all recipients this year, 12 students received 14 Gold Key awards, which allows their work to advance to the national competition where it will be judged by a panel of leading creative professionals. Three students also had work nominated for the American Voices Award, which recognizes students with an original, authentic voice. National jurors will select one nominee from each region for the national American Voices Award.

The 14 Gold Key and 42 Silver Key entries were also published by Hastings College Press in a book titled “Best Nebraska Teen Writing 2024.” Students will receive a copy of the book, as well as certificates, scholarships and other items during the awards ceremony.

Kiara Letcher
Kiara Nicole Letcher

“It’s such a joy to honor students who submitted such great work to the competition. Every year it gets harder to pick the top recipients, which shows just how much writing talent there is across the state. Writing, being creative and mastering the writing process are such valuable skills throughout one’s life. We’re glad to help shine a spotlight on that,” said Dr. Cat Clifford, Hastings College assistant professor of English.

The 52 students receiving honors is the most since Hastings College began sponsoring the program in 2019. Last year, which also set a record for awards, saw 39 students receive honors.

Students from all 93 counties of Nebraska and age 13 and above were invited in the fall to submit original work in any of the Awards’ writing categories. Works are then judged by a panel of Hastings College faculty, staff and students.

Students receiving awards are listed alphabetically below.

  • Paige Amos, Sandy Creek Elementary High School (Fairfield); Senior Portfolio: Silver Key
  • Vaishvika Balamurugan, Lincoln High School (Lincoln); Poetry: Gold Key, two Silver Keys,  American Voices Award Nominee
  • Emma Baldeh, Dundy County Stratton High School (Benkelman); Poetry: Gold Key; Science Fiction & Fantasy: Gold Key, American Voices Award Nominee
  • Taylor Beierman, Boone Central High School (Albion); Critical Essay: Honorable Mention
  • Eve Bishop, UNL Independent Study High School (Lincoln); Poetry: two Gold Keys, Silver Key, Honorable Mention
  • Victoria Bogatz, Bellevue East Senior High School (Bellevue); Critical Essay: Honorable Mention; Poetry: Silver Key, Honorable Mention
  • Katie Bough, Northwest High School (Grand Island); Poetry: Silver Key, Honorable Mention
  • Erinn Briggs, Lakeview Junior-Senior High School (Columbus); Novel Writing: Honorable Mention
  • Ana Brock, Boys Town High School (Boys Town); Poetry: Honorable Mention; Senior Portfolio: Honorable Mention
  • Gabrielle Burns, Millard North High School (Omaha); Poetry: three Silver Keys
  • Sarah Cai, East High School (Lincoln); Personal Essay & Memoir: Silver Key
  • Ana Carson, Doniphan-Trumbull High School (Doniphan); Poetry: Honorable Mention
  • Madalyn Croteau, Bellevue West Senior High School (Bellevue); Poetry: Silver Key, Honorable Mention
  • Olivia Cure, Shelton High School (Shelton); Poetry: Silver Key
  • Rebekah Daily; Flash Fiction: Honorable Mention
  • Claire Davis, Hastings Senior High School (Hastings); Poetry: Silver Key, Honorable Mention
  • Reagan Dearth, Northwest High School (Grand Island); Science Fiction & Fantasy: Silver Key
  • Darbie deFreese, Holdrege High School (Holdrege); Poetry: Honorable Mention
  • Kimmy Findeis, Millard West High School (Omaha); Poetry: Honorable Mention
  • Miah Fox, Paxton Consolidated High School (Paxton); Science Fiction & Fantasy: Silver Key; Short Story: Silver Key
  • Autumn Hall, Gross Catholic High School (Bellevue); Science Fiction & Fantasy: Silver Key
  • Gracie Henderson, Bellevue West Senior High School (Bellevue); Personal Essay & Memoir: Silver Key
  • Jocelyn Huang, Millard North High School (Omaha); Critical Essay: Silver Key; Humor: Gold Key; Personal Essay & Memoir: Honorable Mention
  • Maddie Huggard, East High School (Lincoln); Personal Essay & Memoir: Silver Key
  • Annika Johnson, Millard North High School (Omaha); Poetry: Silver Key
  • Alice Jones, Concordia Junior/Senior High School (Omaha); Science Fiction & Fantasy: Silver Key
  • Samantha Ladwig, Fort Calhoun Junior-Senior High School (Fort Calhoun); Science Fiction & Fantasy: Silver Key
  • Ainsley LaHolt, Lincoln Southwest High School (Lincoln); Poetry: Honorable Mention; Science Fiction & Fantasy: Silver Key
  • Marcus Luevano, Northwest High School (Grand Island); Short Story: Honorable Mention
  • Caliana McBride, Lincoln Southwest High School (Lincoln); Novel Writing: Silver Key
  • Daniela Monzalvo Tolentino, Grand Island Senior High School (Grand Island); Personal Essay & Memoir: Gold Key, American Voices Award Nominee
  • Magnolia Moriarty, Millard South High School (Omaha); Poetry: Gold Key, two Silver Keys, Honorable Mention
  • Aden Niebuhr, Lincoln Southwest High School (Lincoln); Senior Portfolio: Gold Key
  • Katelyn Omer, Millard North High School (Omaha); Poetry: Gold Key, Honorable Mention
  • Isabella Parmeley, LPS Arts & Humanities Focus Program (Lincoln); Science Fiction & Fantasy: Silver Key
  • Jay Peters, Omaha South High School (Omaha); Poetry: Gold Key, Silver Key, Honorable Mention
  • Kenna Pfeifer, Adams Central Junior/Senior High School (Hastings); Science Fiction & Fantasy: Honorable Mention
  • Lilly Pfeilsticker, Fort Calhoun Junior-Senior High School (Fort Calhoun); Personal Essay & Memoir: Honorable Mention; Poetry: Silver Key, Honorable Mention
  • Rowan Roehr, Fort Calhoun Junior-Senior High School (Fort Calhoun); Poetry: Silver Key
  • Sam Rogers, Hastings Senior High School (Hastings); Poetry: Honorable Mention
  • Jihye Seo, East High School (Lincoln); Short Story: Honorable Mention
  • Joselyn Shoemaker, East High School (Lincoln); Personal Essay & Memoir: Silver Key
  • Quenby Smith; Senior Portfolio: Gold Key
  • Isabelle Swanson, Northwest High School (Grand Island); Short Story: Silver Key
  • Hannah Tang, East High School (Lincoln); Personal Essay & Memoir: Silver Key
  • Kaylee Taylor, Fort Calhoun Junior-Senior High School  (Fort Calhoun); Short Story: Silver Key
  • Lily Thompson, Southeast High School (Lincoln); Senior Portfolio: Honorable Mention
  • Priscilla Ton, North Star High School (Lincoln); Poetry: Honorable Mention
  • Cassandra Wong, Millard South High School (Omaha); Flash Fiction: Gold Key, two Silver Keys, Honorable Mention; Poetry: Silver Key, Honorable Mention; Short Story: Silver Key
  • Emma Yin, Personal Essay & Memoir: Silver Key
  • Daniel Yoo, Southwest High School (Lincoln); Personal Essay & Memoir: two Silver Keys
  • Cheryl Zeng, East High School (Lincoln); Personal Essay & Memoir: Gold Key

About Kiara Nicole Letcher

Letcher, of Omaha, Nebraska, received her MFA from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2014 and previously served as a board member of the Nebraska Writers Collective. Her first full length collection, “Oxblood,” is forthcoming. Her work has appeared in Green Mountains Review, Plainsongs Magazine, Solstice Literary Magazine, Querencia Press, Adelaide Magazine, Quiet Diamonds and The Corpus Callosum. Her work is forthcoming in South Dakota Review and Laurel Review. You can find her at her website, kiaranicoleletcher.com or on Instagram at kiaranicolebang.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program was established in 1923 and has supported the creative talent of millions of students, including distinguished alumni Tschabalala Self, Stephen King, Kay WalkingStick, Charles White, Joyce Carol Oates, and Andy Warhol, all of whom received recognition in the Awards when they were teens.

Hastings College is a four-year residential college that focuses on student academic and extracurricular achievement. Discover more at hastings.edu.

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