Leia Anjali Seereeram, a senior at Burlington High School, has been passionate about writing since she was young, sometimes even waking up in the middle of the night to jot things down. However, until recently, she always kept her stories to herself.
“I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but it was always for myself,” said Seereeram, 17. “I never did anything with my stories.”
Now, after a teacher encouraged her to submit some of her work, Seereeram is among the winners of this year’s Boston Globe Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the regional division of a national program bestowing honors, exhibition opportunities, and scholarships on creative students in grades 7 through 12. The program has recognized the talents of young artists and writers since 1923, with many of the winners — such as Cy Twombly, Truman Capote, and Joyce Carol Oates — going on to become well-known artistic visionaries.
The regional Globe competition, presented by the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, is in its 65th year.
Lesley Davison, the awards coordinator from the SMFA, said more than 8,000 students submitted nearly 20,000 works — 1,750 written pieces and 18,000-plus artworks — for review. The submissions, entered into 28 different categories, are judged on their originality, technical skill, and personal voice or vision. Winners receive Gold Key, Silver Key, or honorable mention accolades. Gold Key works — including one by Seereeram — go on to be judged in the national competition.
“Winning definitely encourages me to keep writing,” said Seereeram, who also received a Silver Key and an honorable mention for other submissions. “It shows me I have stories to tell.”
Her short story “Youth,” a visceral piece she penned for a creative writing class, was awarded the Gold Key. Told from the perspective of a recent high school graduate, the narrator recounts a horrific event from childhood, when his friend fell to his death as the two were playing near a ravine. About to move away from his childhood home, the narrator struggles to leave behind his past before embarking on a new path — a feeling very familiar to most teenagers.
Seereeram’s story was also one of five written works nominated for the national American Voices award, which recognizes Gold Key pieces that make a larger statement about teenagers today. A similar accolade, the American Visions award, honors visual works.
Other Massachusetts nominees for the American Voices prize include Jenny Jung of Andover High School; Elaine Irvin of Brookwood School, in Manchester-by-the-Sea; Robert Malley, of Beverly’s the Waring School; and Kenyatta Williams of Pioneer Chinese Immersion School, in Hadley.
American Visions nominees include Olga Brevnova of Belmont High School; Jordan Casaubon of Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington; Mary Kuan of Andover High School; Nico Ciccia of Phillips Academy Andover; and William Close of the Cambridge School in Weston.
Close, 18, was bestowed the top honor for a large pen and ink illustration titled “Brainscape.” Covering many sheets of tea-stained paper, the drawing is composed of an intricate network of lines — including a section mapping the artist’s route to school — stemming from a chaotic epicenter. Close, who will graduate from Cambridge this spring, had his future in mind when conceptualizing the artwork.
“The vast number of paths one could take is illuminated during the teenage years. This can be quite overwhelming,” said Close, who spent a month working on “Brainscape.” “I was thinking about finding one’s way [when creating this piece].”
Ciccia, 16, received the American Visions nod for his paper-and-wire sculpture, which was inspired by the abstract work of artist Lee Bontecou. He said the nomination — along with another Gold Key and an honorable mention for his ceramic submissions — has given him the motivation to further his artistic pursuits.
“It really encourages me to put myself out there and be more curious about finding ways to show my work,” he said.
Gold Key works will be on display at Boston University’s 808 Gallery through March 15. National winners will be announced March 16.
Eryn Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.