“In the shadow of a home-spun chord, when my ears are ringing with sleep, in the shadow cast by my flashlight, I love her.”
These poignant words were written by Sasha Edwards, a 15-year-old sophomore at Washington High School who received a national award for her poem, “Someone Loves Her,” dedicated to an underappreciated friend.
Edwards and four other creative students in the Southwestern Pennsylvania region will be traveling to New York City Friday to accept their national awards in the prestigious Scholastic Art and Writing competition. Of the 255,000 art and writing submissions from students in grades seven to 12 across the country, only about 1,800 received national distinctions.
In addition to Edwards, local students who received national awards were Emily Richard, an eighth-grade student at Fort Cherry Junior-Senior High School; Katherine Burgess, a senior at Uniontown High School; Kristen Burns, a senior at Canon-McMillan High School; and Tyler Johnson, a senior at Charleroi Area High School.
Edwards, daughter of Elsa Edwards of East Washington, has been reading and writing poetry since she was a child. She enjoys writing personalized poems for others and giving them away as gifts.
Edwards also received recognition from teachers and peers for her solemn poem “April,” dedicated to Ta’Niyah Thomas, a 10-year-old Washington Park School student shot dead during a home invasion in late March.
“Whenever something like this happens, I always imagine my little sister being in their place,” Edwards said.
High school English teacher Brandy LaQuatra said Edwards’ keen sense of observation and empathy shine through in her poems.
“I’ve come across a lot of students that are good writers – great writers – and then I met Sasha and read her writing. I’ve never seen anything like it,” LaQuatra said. “She has a poet’s soul, and she sees life from such a more mature eye that is well beyond her years.”
Like Edwards, 14-year-old Richard is one of the youngest local students to receive a national art award. Richard, of McDonald, daughter of Karen and Dan Richard, was recognized for her photo titled “Lucky Shot.”
Her kaleidoscopic photo shows her 11-year-old sister, Olivia, sitting in front of a clover background, which is reflected onto a marble table. Not only was it a “lucky shot,” considering Richard just started dabbling in photography, but the photo also was taken with her iPhone.
“I like to create an illusion in my photography,” Richard said. “It reflected perfectly, and I took the picture.”
Richard also has a knack for stop-motion animation and creating duct tape dresses. She said she wants to try new forms of art and hopes to create a sculpture soon.
“I’m constantly trying to find inspiration,” she said.
Jacqueline Newman, who teaches gifted students at Fort Cherry, said Richard is her most motivated student.
She said the fact that Richard won a national award with little experience in photography is “really amazing, especially because she used her iPhone.”
All national award recipients are invited to attend a “Maker Prom” at the Roosevelt Hotel and awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City in June.