Student wins prestigious Scholastic writing award

Mercer Island High School senior Nathan Cummings was named a Portfolio Gold Medal award winner in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. - Contributed photo
Mercer Island High School senior Nathan Cummings was named a Portfolio Gold Medal award winner in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Islander Nathan Cummings is set to follow in the footsteps of famous writers like Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, and Lena Dunham. Nathan, an 18-year-old Mercer Island High School senior, was named a national Portfolio Gold medalist in the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards – the nation’s longest running and most prestigious recognition and scholarship program for creative teens. After multiple rounds of judging – first on the regional level and finally by a panel of expert jurors – Nathan’s work was rewarded with a $10,000 cash scholarship.

This year, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the nonprofit that administers the Scholastic Awards, received over 255,000 submissions from students across the country in grades 7-12. Nathan is one of 16 students to receive a Portfolio Gold medal which is the competition’s highest honor, available to graduating seniors “who show originality, impressive technical skill and unique voice,” a press release said.

Cummings said that poetry was a natural progression from his writing that began when he was 10 or 12 years old. He was an early reader, he explained.

“I would come up with my own stories in my head,” he said.

From there, he wrote down his own stories. He began writing poetry just two or three years ago. It was a natural progression to move to poetry — it is quicker and in some ways easier, he said.

He notes the good advice received from a Washington state Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flenniken. She told him that, “You can write a good poem in the time it takes to cook a pot of rice.”

Cummings will attend Harvard University this fall.

Nathan Cummings | Silver Medal, Poetry

2013 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards


Like syzygy, we collided

in the darkness, ricocheted,

twirled, aligned

(helped along by gravity?)

and were gone when the moon showed its face.


I told you the word at dawn,

and had to write it on a notepad

before you would believe me.

Many things sound impossible

before you put your tongue into them.



Feel it in the roots of your teeth.

Let the zy and gy crackle

like the static on an old TV set,

turning sound galvanic,

making atoms tremble in ecstasy

until they leap skyward,

form rows and hang in the void to hear

the planets sing with one burning voice.

Let consonants carry you away.



We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates