Reading financial aid forms is a common after-school activity for a lot of high school seniors as they decide where they might go to college. For 17-year-old Sam Wachman of Cambridge, funding his future was made easier by pursuing his passion.
Wachman, who attends Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, has been awarded a national Gold Medal for his writing portfolio at the 2018 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, administered by the national non-profit Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.
"There's a Yiddish verb, to 'kvell,' which means to derive immense pride from your kid's achievement," said Wachman. "My mom has been the very embodiment of kvelling since that phone call. I took the phone call on speakerphone and my mom was listening in, and we were both jumping up and down and screaming."
One of 16 high school seniors to receive the award, Wachman won a $10,000 scholarship to fund his higher education. He'll be attending Brandeis, where he plans to study creative writing.
Wachman was recognized first at the regional level in Massachusetts, which was presented by the Boston Globe Foundation in partnership with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. His portfolio, "The Sketchbook," included coming-of-age stories with a LGBTQIA focus.
"When I was beginning to discover that I was gay, I started to crave books where I could see myself reflected in the pages, and there weren't enough out there," Wachman said. "It's so, so important for kids to be able to see themselves in media. It's normalizing. It makes you feel like you're a part of the world at a time in your life when you tend to feel at odds with it.
"That's why I focus on LGBT themes in my work," he said. "I want to take my experiences finding my place in the world as a gay person and use them to help others find their places."
What's next for the young writer? He's working on the first draft of a novel for his senior project.
The award will be presented to Wachman and the other winners at Carnegie Hall in New York City on June 7.