By Jason Klaiber
Managing Editor For Promotions
The Rambunctious literary magazine continues to be an avenue for creative-minded students at Jamesville-DeWitt High School to showcase their work. This year, a select few students involved with Rambunctious were granted awards by the Empire State Scholastic Press Association. The ESSPA Awards recognize the student publishing of high school literary magazines, divided into the subcategories of best overall magazine, design, artwork, photography, and the various genres of writing.
This was the first year that J-DHS’s literary magazine sent entries to the ESSPA Awards. It was a successful debut for Rambunctious, which won two gold awards for art and a silver award for overall magazine. Those art awards went to J-DHS graduate Nicole Tanquary for “Portrait of Laura” as well as senior Arielle Nagar, who is currently living in Italy as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange, for her piece entitled “Mom.” Sophomore Kelsey Kissane, the youngest of J-DHS’s ESSPA Award winners, won a silver award in photography for an untitled photo. English teacher and Rambunctious adviser Matt Phillips says that J-DHS’s triumphs in the art category “just go to underscore what everyone already knows, which is that the art department at J-DHS is really the best high school art program in the state.”
Mr. Phillips credits the silver award for overall magazine to the Rambunctious editors. He says they allowed for a “new step ahead” in terms of how the magazine was put together, an achievement made more impressive when considering how tight their deadlines were. The editors pour through submissions and make their decisions about what’s included in the magazine based on what has the highest quality. Mr. Phillips notes that the magazine’s primary focus is to exhibit a variety of the school’s “breadth of talent” while deciding what pieces work well together, ultimately making a publication that “unifies as a cohesive whole.” Last year, the Rambunctious staff experimented with the layout of the magazine, marrying literature and full-color artwork on each page. They put together three separate issues, which were displayed online because there wasn’t enough of a budget to print them. Each of the three issues was sent into the ESSPA competition. “In terms of the ESSPA awards,” says Mr. Phillips, “the individual writers and artists are extraordinarily talented. The quality of the work shows in the pieces themselves.”
J-DHS was also prominent in the writing categories of the ESSPA Awards. An untitled piece by J-DHS graduate and current Brown University student Christy Le won a silver in nonfiction. Also, junior Urmi Roy won a silver award for her fiction story, titled “The Godfather.” Roy, who has relied on writing as a hobby for most of her life and has been submitting to Rambunctious since her sophomore year, says she was “shocked” when she heard she won the award. “I thought my story was well-written,” she says, “but I didn’t think Newhouse would honor it with an award.” Her story focuses on a young man who lives a double life while on the run from the Mafia. She attributes the success of this story to the “breathtaking, fast-paced, heart-wrenching” storyline and the strong, believable character personalities she created.
Additionally, three seniors were bestowed with awards for their poetry; Leah Ifraim won a silver for “Russian Roulette,” Liz Burnham won a bronze for “Foundations,” and Harrison Franklin was given an honorable mention for his poem, “Story of a Mixed Kid.”
“I thought for sure there must be amazing poetry out there that’d beat mine, so I was pleasantly surprised when I received my award,” says Ifraim, who joined Rambunctious last year. Her poem “Russian Roulette” is named after a type of sushi she once tried at a Japanese restaurant. Ifraim notes that her poem is “vivid” and “descriptive” in evoking the reader’s sense of taste. Planning on continuing her path in writing poetry while attending college, Ifraim says that what she enjoys about poetry is how easily she can express her thoughts and creativity.
Burnham, who has been a Rambunctious staff member since her junior year, says that being awarded for her poem made her proud. “Writing is very important to me,” says Burnham, “so it’s nice to be recognized for something that you care about so much.” Burnham says that she’s been interested in poetry and writing in general since an early age, and she sees writing as a daily part of her life. “I can’t see myself ever giving up on writing, and it’d be nice to someday even write for a living,” says Burnham; “I plan on majoring in English in college and then going into either teaching or publishing.”
Franklin, who has been writing poetry since the seventh grade but only recently joined Rambunctious, wrote “Story of a Mixed Kid” as an assignment for his English class during his junior year. He says that the poem is an original, true story based off his life and personal background. “It felt good that my poetry is recognized as something good, something that I can have confidence in saying I’m good at,” says Franklin. He sees poetry as a source of freedom and a type of therapy in that it helps in releasing emotions, and he plans on making a name for himself in the poetry world someday.
In terms of the process that culminated in these award-winning pieces of literature, Mr. Phillips says that “the real focus is having students continue to revise, refine, and edit their own work so they can end up with the best finalized piece.” He adds that the credit shouldn’t necessarily belong to him or even the English courses offered here at J-DHS. “It’s just a writer kinda working by himself or herself to bring the work to that level of quality,” he says.
Those involved with Rambunctious are well aware that the magazine is often overpassed by fellow students. Mr. Phillips says that the magazine went “somewhat unnoticed” last year. “There were students who wouldn’t go to the website, as good as this past year’s issue was,” he says. But they hope to heighten interest in their publication. Burnham believes that the magazine has expanded and improved over the past few years. “We’ve added more art pieces and the quality of the magazine itself has really gone up,” she says; “It looks beautiful this year, and that combined with all the pieces from the many extremely talented students makes it really interesting and unique.” Burnham hopes that students can recognize the talent and dedication of their peers and begin to take a greater interest in the magazine. Franklin believes that increased publicizing and propagandizing of the magazine around the school could spark more interest.
Despite the student body’s general lack of interest, Ifraim looks on the bright side. “Although a lot of people may not read Rambunctious,” she says, “I think it’s a cool way to combine people’s stories, ideas, and thoughts into a collection that can intrigue and interest a wide range of people.” In order to lift the magazine and its publicity to even greater heights, Mr. Phillips welcomes new members with open arms; “We would love to have more people involved,” he says. He adds that more assistance would be helpful in a wide range of areas, including marketing, editing, reading, judging, and layout design. He also advocates Rambunctious as a realm for creativity and expression. “Every student needs to recognize that they have a voice,” he says, “and whether they take a creative writing class or an art class, there is a space in the human experience for expression and we can find places to do that through music and art, through dance, but everyone needs to find their outlet to express themselves, to express their awesomeness and their beauty and their talents, and this is just one area where that can happen.”