Conner DiPaolo
Copy Editor

The Newport Harbor English department held a school wide writing exhibition in response to an article read in class, igniting opinions and responses from the whole spectrum of English students and rewarding winner Senior Jake Thomas with a Nook.

After reading the article from Wired Magazine, entitled “Seven Creepy Experiments,”students were offered (and in some cases forced) to write or draw a one page response to the article which could come from a number of modes and styles.

“The exhibition was designed to give a stimulus that the American school system is not providing.” Said contest director Mr. Sigafoos.

The article detailed seven experiments that are questionable morally but would help humanity in some way. Some classes were instructed to discuss the articles as a group, while others had to write responses separate from the contest.

English teachers each chose one writing piece from each of their classes in the first round of eliminations. Then, as a department, English teachers picked the finalists that were the best of them all. Finally, the finalists were judged by out-of-department teachers and staff members from around campus, such as assistant principal Mr. Cusik and counselor Grace Nguyen.

“There have been a lot of educational studies showing the benefits of [writing contests].” Said contest director and NHHS English teacher Mr. Sigafoos. “Kids in the future need ways to solve problems and express themselves. For example, Steve Jobs used calligraphy as an outlet among others. It just brings everybody together.”

Senior Jake Thomas won both overall and in the narrative category, receiving  a Nook. Junior Lily Chavis won the argumentative mode and junior Kaitlyn Dangl won the informational mode. For the best in grade, senior Matt Ongkingco, junior Brandt Bucher, sophomore Jaime Wu, and freshman Alejandro Gomez all won, respectively.

Thomas’first writing contest piece only took him half an hour to write, but in that time he tried to come as close to the literary “gods” as possible.

“The creator/creation thing seemed pretty interesting, and the theological implications kind of followed that. I was going for a kind of dark and critical vibe, without sounding too eco-terroristy. There is definitely some women’s rights, animal testing, and ‘synthetic world’ opinions in there, too,” said Thomas.

Thomas writes a lot both for school and in his free time. He enjoys music, playing both the guitar and the didgeridoo (“a difficult instrument”). He thinks of his winning as an affirmation of his writing ability; a sign of good things to come.

“[His piece] was really interesting and I kept wanting to read it,” said Grace Nguyen, a Newport Harbor counselor and finalist grader for the contest.

In response to students saying that the prompt was too restrictive, Mr. Sigafoos said, “[their feelings are] valid, unfortunately to judge something you need to have rules and boundaries. I hope that anybody who thought it was too restrictive is writing on their own.”

Read Jake Thomas' Winning Story, "Mother" Below.


“Breathe, Mary.”  Her mouth was dry, her eyes sore, her chest tight. Wringing her soft-sanitized hands and staring into the white, shallow lights, she wondered, “Is there anything left?”  The crowds would soon arrive to witness the public unveiling of the ape-child. The Crime against God.  The Offense to Mother Nature.  The Perfection of Science.  And she was its mother.  Well, she considered herself to be so, anyway. After all, she had done all of the lab work; Her research had made the existence of the creature possible. The surrogate mother had simply carried the thing to term.  Mother.  She didn’t have any real children of her own.  Children carry legacies, and she didn’t want anyone carrying her legacy for her. 

“Nearly time, Mary.”  Her frigid, thin-skinned hands shook gently at her sides. She noticed and quickly  folded her arms.  A muddled wave of noise pounded her eardrums, and she was reminded of the wildebeest stampede she’d seen in Africa.  A massive horde of people flowed into the auditorium.  Now she thought of locusts. Security had rummaged through their belongings, frisked them thoroughly. There had been talk of murder, assassination.  Her publicist had tried, desperately and ultimately in vain, to spin her as a role model to young girls, the epitome of the modern, professional woman- like Hillary Clinton. People preferred politics to human-simian crossbreeding.  She’d been forced to hire a bodyguard.  The science was impressive, but the horde wasn’t here for the science. This was a freak show, and she was no fool, she was part of the show.  Victor Frankenstein and his monster. Suddenly, she longed desperately to be alone in her lab, where she couldn’t be made a spectacle. Chemical cleanliness, the soothing hum of computer fans, the air cold and clear. The audience disgusted her. 

“You’re on, Mary.”  She cleared her throat and stepped sharply toward the microphone, smiling tightly through her thin lips-she’d practiced- at the horde as they struggled to refocus their feeble attention span on the woman who was, in fact, the reason they were there in the first place.  Her mouth opened, then closed.  In between, the audience had nodded, civilly oohed and aahed at her formidable expertise.  Her presentation came to a close, the abrupt silence awakening a few of the bolder audience members, more than likely drawn in by basic morbid curiosity. There was movement just off stage. The horde stirred in anticipation, a deafening collection of whispers washed through the auditorium and she was forgotten. The lights grew dark and a spotlight shone on a box covered by cloth being wheeled onto the stage.  She turned toward the horde of spectators, each leaning forward in their seats, mouths agape.  With a sigh, she took hold of the cloth and pulled. Gasps assaulted her ears. She grimaced slightly at their predictability. She glanced at her creation. It was watching her.  Her eyes. Dr. Jacobs patted her roughly on the back. “Smile, darling. You’ve done it. You’ve killed God, Mary.” She smiled politely.  “It didn’t take much.”

Leave a Reply.