Joshua Peng won the $600 top prize in the Eighth Annual Bruce E. Mitchell Short Story competition for juniors at Evanston Township High School for his story, A Cult of One.
At a ceremony at the school Thursday afternoon, Peng was presented with the first-prize check from a donor-advised account at the Evanston Community Foundation by retired ETHS English teacher Bruce E. Mitchell, who was one of the 12 men who started a short story discussion group some 27 years ago and continue to meet regularly during the year to discuss short stories.
Runners-up prizes of $200 each were awarded to Elliot Hanson, for his story, The Requiem for Innocence, and to Jersie Rabb for her story, Wealth in Happiness.
According to their English teachers, Peng is a child of Chinese immigrants, who has always pushed himself to improve his writing outside of school and home. As a result, Josh attended many writing classes at Northwestern University as a young boy that hooked him on writing as an art form.
His short story, A Cult of One, was inspired by author Philip K. Kick’s “Faith of Our Fathers,” and touches on the themes of egotism and God. Josh plans to study political science and philosophy. If that doesn’t work out, he says, “I’ll go write for Saturday Night Live.”
Hanson, his teachers report, is always reaching for the “why” of things—why this word choice? Why this ending? Why do we make art, music, writing? His curiosity and keen eye for detail make him a perceptive reader and a descriptive writer, they declare.
Elliot, they add, doesn’t shy away from a difficult assignment, even when he could have taken a less challenging path. This drive has pushed him into high level academic courses and varsity sports. Also, his teachers report that “he’s a heck of a nice guy; his warm smile and empathic manner enrich our classroom every day.”
Reading and writing have been a huge part of Jersie Rabb’s life, according to her teachers, since she was able to do both. In her spare time, they report, ”Jersie writes and produces her own film scripts, sings, and plays guitar. “
Her story, Wealth in Happiness, follows the theme of self-discovery as the characters examine the relationship between happiness and intangible wealth. In the future, Jersie says she plans to pursue her interest in writing, film, and photography through art direction.
The writing awards were presented during the school’s first annual Department Awards Ceremony, held in the Upstairs Theatre.
Other award winners:
Olivia O’Connor, Coral Norris Award; Ian Salamon, James M. Hartray Award; Chelsea Soto and Braulio Miranda, Vivek Likhite Award; Jennifer Rodriguez-Gomez, Winifred Guthrie Anderson Early Childhood Education Award.
Also, Nayhaly Williams, Barbara Pannwitt Creative Writing Award; Flora Block, Joanne Ichkoff Humanities Award; Michael Colton, John Reque Journalism Award; Nina Kaushikkar, Marie Claire Davis Creative Writing Award; Frances Hubbard, Peggy Dye Yearbook Award.
Also, Jasper Davidoff, William B. K. Beatty Achievement Award; Genevieve Wade, Mary L. Taft Best All-Around English Student; Jasper Davidoff, Phil Roden Community Service Award; Nina Kaushikkar, Bernard Mattson Award.
Also, Gabriela Senno, Jack Rakove Class of 1964 Award; Sofia Garcia, Nadine J. Clark Award; Owen Travis, Rensselaer Medal Award; Yesenia Montoya, Caleb Steege, Miyoki Walker, and Julia Wallace, Sandy McDermott Memorial Scholarship; Clio Hancock, Ross Freeland Scholarship.
Also, Mallen Clifton, Eleanor D. Kornhaber Mathematics Award for Women; James Porter, John Benson Scholarship; Fatima Najera, Eugenia Brelias Scholarship; Simon Lequar, Outstanding Achievement in Mathematics Award.
Also, Tatiana Matchum, Katherine G. Bugelas Award; Gavrielle Welbel, Carol E. Beatty Award; and Grace Newcomb, Margaret M. Beatty World Language Award.