ZHIJIN HU, Metropolitan: Are we Satisfied with What We Have?, Mixed Media. Grade 12, Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI. Best-in-Grade Award

ZHIJIN HU, Metropolitan: Are we Satisfied with What We Have?, Mixed Media. Grade 12, Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, MI. Best-in-Grade Award

The Best-in-Grade Award, underwritten by Bloomberg Philanthropies, is given to two works of art and writing from grades 7-12. The works are judged on a grade-by-grade basis, giving students the chance to earn additional recognition among their peers. This Special Achievement Award comes with a $1,000 scholarship for each work that receives this award, and educators of these talented students receive $250 cash awards.

Here are the 2019 Best-in-Grade Awardees:

Grade 7:
Els Bamberger
Alexis Emerson
Naomi (Kiki) Friedbauer
Stella Mahlke 
Grade 8:
Wesley Carlton
Jessica Deng
Lillian Josefiak
Leslie Kim 
Grade 9:
Alyssa Gaines
Lauren Kim
Olivia Sisson
Derek Yu 
Grade 10:
Natascha Belt
Alice Cai
Katerina Corr
Mimi Offor 
Grade 11:
Emory Brinson
Joshua Guo, Amy Xie, and Jason Zhang
Jeffrey Liao
Olivia Propeck
Grade 12:
Dagmawit Adamu
Zhijin Hu
Sara Kangaslahti
Anushka Nair

that one park where so-and-so got shot
ALYSSA GAINES, Poetry. Grade 9, Park Tudor School, Indianapolis, IN. Best-in-Grade Award

we came across a dead bird beneath a tree on the park floor.
childish eyes rush to see what childish minds don’t want to know.
(don’t need to know yet)
we stared in awe at the sleeping bird,

with one wing twisted on the ground,
the other tucked in tight.
we wanted to flip it.

“you get a stick”
“here you do it”
“are you scared?”

i stuck a stick out in front of our classroom-like semi-circle,
pointed at the bird with the poke-y end.
stuck underneath its breast and pushed it until it rolled like a ball.
lifeless and full of nothing and it bounced like it was deflated.

its eye socket was empty.
full of everything but an eye.
covered in caked-on mud, and dirt, and dust,
and it looked like it’d been there for some while.

crushed beak,
caudal end flat on the ground,
crooked leg,
and little white larvae, slime-ing around the empty eye socket

ants marched up and down the body like a hill,
and we all felt icky.
the bird, that had fallen in flight,
still moved like it was light and empty and that was the worst part.

we all dispersed, disgusted.
i convinced someone else to flip the bird back over to the nice side.
and then we all said a prayer.
so that our hands could be clean;

so that the bird would find its way home;
that we were sorry for flipping it,
we didn’t know why flipping it was wrong, but we just knew;
that we would never have to see something so nasty again.

before we knew death as well as each other.
before death was like the street name of each block, and each movie theatre, and each park we
used to play in
before we knew the difference between gunshot and backfiring car.
this was the first taste.

before we all knew someone our age who’d been killed
before it was almost us
before we had close-call stories
there was that haunting bird.

and it scared us.
and we prayed.

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