It was a great night to honor the under-appreciated and often mysterious craft of creative writing at Monmouth Regional High School’s Academic Awards Night on May 30. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to start the first ever (and annual) Inspired Scribble Scholarship, something I’ve wanted to do since 2009 but had to put on hold until my collegiate basketball career had concluded in order to avoid violating any NCAA rules and regulations. It was worth the wait for many reasons, but the most obvious to me now, is that I first had to develop my love for writing creatively; something I did often throughout those three years but had solidified during my fifth year. Turns out, great things can happen when an idea grows into something a little more tangible, like visiting the AP Humanities class, sharing my writing (and athletic) experiences with students, receiving submissions that move your insides, and finally, after weeks of reading and re-reading, determining a winner whose story is revealed once again in the unhide-able smile I see when congratulating him in front of peers, parents and teachers.
This year’s winner is Nervin Ramirez.
And this is how I addressed the crowd before recognizing him.
Good evening everyone. My name is Kristen Dalton and I am the founder of a creative writing organization called Inspired Scribble, which encourages young people to take up the pen and write their lives. I graduated from Monmouth Regional in 2006 and during my time here I was a student in the AP Humanities class. As many current students may know, there was a lot of writing involved in that class. But it wasn’t until I went on to play basketball at Lehigh University that I truly valued the lessons I learned in that class: how to think independently, read with a curious mind and write with a reckless abandon that often tip-toed the line of getting in trouble but mostly ended up just being controversial. More importantly, I learned what courage meant, especially in the context of standing up for my beliefs and defending my point of view. Yes, writing can teach you all of these things. It can teach you how to discover your own voice.
When I returned to the AP Humanities class in January and presented the students with the first ever Inspired Scribble Scholarship, I challenged anyone who dared to submit their work, whether it was nonfiction, fiction, poetry or short stories, to find their voice in their writing. This is also known as being yourself, and it is far easier said than done. But it was the only criteria for the scholarship. All the other aspects of writing, such as grammar, sentence structure, diction, plot, narrative arc and any of those other technical terms that every published author seems to dismiss in the name of artistic license anyway, didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to be moved, inspired, when I read their submission. And the only way to do that for the reader is to be yourself as a human being who just happens to be writing. That was my challenge. What better place to start than high school?
All of the stories I read where out-of-this-world honest, funny, sad and downright impressive. Each one was so different and unique and interesting and produced a myriad of emotions while reading them. But the first one I read, by Nervin Ramirez, stuck with me. Even while I was reading the others, I kept thinking about his story; of his family history, growing up in Costa Rica and the challenges of moving to the United States. It was incredible moving. Nervin knew where he was from and he hadn’t let any form of adversity erase the most basic, human facts about his life, or his family’s. Instead, he has risen to every occasion, whether it was learning to read, write and speak English or performing on the soccer field. That is something that only comes from knowing who you truly are, from believing in yourself despite every doubt. His voice was illustrated in his writing for this very reason, as a reflection of something true.
It is my pleasure to offer Nervin Ramirez $500 for the Inspired Scribble Scholarship: for telling his story, standing by his words and understanding what it means to be courageous. Congratulations!