Katy Teen Wang Makes Regional History as Harris County Department of Education’s First ‘National Student Poet’

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October 8, 2020 by HCDE-Texas

Poetry and prose are interwoven throughout National Student Poet Ethan Wang’s life.
The Katy ISD teen who learned Chinese as his first language remembers memorizing Tang poetry as a toddler, an ancient poetry revered by his scholarly grandparents.

By age 6, Wang won a school award for an essay he wrote about a book. Later that year, his mother Hong Qin recounted her son’s first beach trip that prompted an in-the-moment poem which demonstrated rare sensitivity and insightfulness:

“I really like the sea; it can bring something,” he said. “It also takes something.”

At 9, Wang crafted a short novel as a gift to a friend.

As an 11th grader, he credits his debate coach and creative writing mentor Mary Sarver for introducing him to contemporary poets and encouraging him to continue his writing.

“I can say with confidence I would not be here without her help,” Wang said of his new status as one of the top young poets in the nation.

Sarver, who claims poetry as her wheelhouse, points to Wang’s remarkable use of imagery, metaphors and experimental language, calling the young writer “one of the most outstanding poets she has ever worked with.”

The 16-year old gained three Gold Keys from regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards sponsored by Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) last year. His work went on to be judged nationally in New York City and he earned a Gold Medal for his poem called “Cloth Ballad, Leather Trails.”

This September, he was home eating lunch and got the call from the Awards which informed him of his new notoriety. Five National Student Poets were selected across the nation from various regions.

He garnered the award, making him the top young poet from the Southwest.

The National Student Poets Program is a partnership between the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers which presents the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Scholastic is the longest-running and most prestigious scholarship and recognition program for the country’s young artist and writers.

The poets were selected from students in grades 10-11 who submitted more than 20,000 works. Only 35 semi-finalists were chosen by poet jurors. Finalists were asked to submit additional poetry from which the five were named. Wang gained $5,000 and the responsibility of representing the program through numerous literary events.

“This is an incredible honor for Ethan Wang and his sponsoring teachers Karen Thompson and Mary Sarver from Cinco Ranch High School,” HCDE Scholastic Art & Writing coordinator Andrea Segraves said. “Since 1993 when we began regional sponsorship of Scholastic Art & Writing, we have never had a National Student Poet named from our region.

“Harris County Department of Education celebrates this accomplishment and wishes Ethan the best in his future creative endeavors.”

As Wang reflects on the memorized words and their cadences he gleaned while learning to talk as a toddler, he feels the imprint of the experience.

“Poetry is about feeling and it’s important because it’s one of the few art forms left to effectively communicate feelings and stories,” he said. Wang encourages his peers to enter Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, even if it’s just to write for fun.

“It helps young writers achieve recognition, and more importantly, it lets them be proud of their work,” he said.

(HCDE is a regional affiliate of Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Writing and art submissions are currently being accepted through Dec. 4, 2020. For details, go to https://tinyurl.com/HCDEartandwritingor email asegraves@hcde-texas.org)

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