Jennifer Chung. Ornaments. Grade 12, Age 17. 2011 Gold Medal, Painting.

December’s Writing of the Month comes from Viviana Hanley of Attleboro, Massachusetts. Viviana is a 2011 Writing Portfolio Silver Medalist.

I awake easily, sliding out of sleep as simply as shrugging off a comfortable sweater. The date is December 25, 1999, and, being a small child of six, sleep never truly claimed me last night. Too much anticipation along with too many Christmas Eve cookies prevented any real rest. Despite the lack of sleep I bound out of bed, alert and excited even though the time is just past seven in the morning.

The air is sharp and flavorful, sprinkled with the fresh smell of pine. It mingles with the crisp winter air to create a familiar aroma. If Christmas has a smell it is surely that of pine and sugar cookies and warm ginger-scented candles. My bare feet touch down on the cool floor, sending shivers up my legs. I pause a moment, drinking in the silence that cloaks the house, giving it an unmistakable hint of the unknown, as though it contains a great secret.

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What does the holiday season mean to you? To many, the holidays are a time for family, love, giving, and hope. Sixteen-year-old Will Newman’s Believe Again Project encompasses all of these themes. Will won a Scholastic Gold Key for Poetry as well as an American Visions Award and Creativity & Citizenship Award for Photography in 2011. Now, he is helping others through his gift of music.

When Will was 11, he visited a cancer center where his father was being treated for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) and met the president of CLL Global Research Foundation. He wanted to help the doctors and researchers who were determined to find a cure for his father’s disease and, together with his father, wrote Believe Again.

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