Express Yourself: Scholastic Art & Writing Awards gives teens artistic opportunities

ScholasticArtWriting_Poster-2016_v3_psSometimes you are so affected by life that you must stop and talk about it, paint it or write about it. Perhaps it’s someone you met or a place you visited.

As the regional sponsor of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Harris County Department of Education is proud to supply a venue for young artists and writers in grades 7-12. This year, professional art and writing judges donated their time to judge 8,000 inspiring art and writing student entries. Moreover, sponsors took on the charge to support students with recognition ceremonies and receptions.

At one of our ceremonies, we were fortunate to meet a young writer who really inspired us. We’d like to share the story of Hajar Mohammad.

Hajar and her mother Nisa gain strength from one another, but faith gets them through the hard times. The eighth grader who attends Krimmel Intermediate in Klein Independent School District has published two books and writes about her life through difficult life topics ranging from domestic violence to racism.

Her daughter Hajar is strong, insists Mother Nisa. She weathered her parents’ divorce, along with the negative comments on her religious customs. From the whispering about the henna that covered her hand to the jihab veil that covers her head and face, it’s not easy being Muslim in America.

“I’m really proud of her,” said her mother. “What she writes inspires me.”
When Hajar writes, she begins with an idea or feeling that grows. The hurt is tolerable when she talks it out through words.

“My mother is positive about situations,” the 13-year-old said. “She says ‘just give them the benefit of the doubt.’”

“Benefit of the Doubt” is the name of the poem which earned Hajar the Gold Key Award recognition through Scholastic Art & Writing. Now her work advances to New York City for judging, and we’re wishing her the best.

The young writer could be full of spite. Yet she prefers to give back to others by volunteering as a Spanish tutor after school. She studies hard. Next year she’ll be admitted into the gifted-and-talented program in high school.

“Hajar is a wonderful girl who has found her voice in writing,” said Klein ISD teacher Antoinette Sherman, who sponsored her Scholastic Art & Writing entry.  “Her poem expresses her individuality and underscores the value of writing as a powerful tool to build tolerance and acceptance.”

At 13, we applaud Hajar for giving people the benefit of the doubt.  We know that she is one of our young Harris County students who is working to make the world a better place. Here’s an excerpt from her award-winning poem:

Benefit of the Doubt by Hajar Mohammad
At 5
My teacher gave me dirty looks
I wanted to crawl into a corner and hide. Maybe she was having a bad day.
At 7
Henna donned my hands.
They all laughed and stared.
Tears threatened to fall. Maybe they were laughing at someone else.
At 10
Going home from school. A man pointing.
Throwing insults.
I shook my head and looked away.
Maybe he didn’t mean to.
At 13
My hair is covered.They think I’m oppressed.They think I’m responsible for 9/11.
I wonder will I ever be accepted. Maybe they’re just afraid…

Read full poem…

What can you do to support the regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in 2017? We’re counting on you to enter, judge or sponsor Scholastic Art & Writing.

About the Blogger:

Harris County Department of Education’s Communication team helps promote the efforts of HCDE’s programs and services to the education community. Our close-knit, award-winning team works together on creative strategies to effectively support the organization. We’re always looking to share great stories and on occasion contribute to the HCDE blog, School Bell.

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