Skip To Main Content

Mobile Header

Providence Day Students Earn National Scholastic Honor

Eli Coblenz created a clay and metal sculpture of a rhinoceros bust using a careful mix of realism and whimsy.

The combination garnered him multiple awards - and now the Providence Day junior can add another accolade to the list.

Eli earned a gold medal for his sculpture Building on Tradition, a twofold nod to one of Africa’s native species and how the continent has evolved into the 21st century. He joined Lisa Liu and Eliza McClelland, who also won national medals. Lisa earned a gold medal for her essay African American Vernacular English: Truth and Misconceptions, and Elizabeth, a Class of 2024 graduate, earned a silver medal for her piece The Trees.

“Eli's sculpture really stands out not only due to its technical prowess but also because of the harmony he was able to bring to the work,” says Sydney Sheaffer, a fine arts and art history teacher. “It captures the imagination and makes the viewer curious to know more.”

Eli originally created the sculpture of a rhinoceros bust, replacing the animal’s horns with wire telephone towers, for a Round Square International Conference at Brookhouse School in Nairobi, Kenya, last fall.

“I feel really excited that this one piece has had such a big impact across multiple organizations,” Eli says. “It feels great to be recognized by an award as reputable as Scholastic, and I feel driven to create more.”

Ms. Sheaffer agreed.

“Eli is one of those rare students that possesses a unique balance of talent, drive, and the desire to experiment and constantly broaden his own horizons,” she says. “He's constantly looking to improve and try something new to the absolute best of his abilities. He's not satisfied with staying in his creative comfort zone.”

Out of the comfort zone

For Lisa Liu, the struggle to write is real.

However, in the essay African American Vernacular English: Truth and Misconceptions, she found her voice and turned it into an award-winning piece. The essay discusses African American Vernacular English and how the language is more than just a way of communicating but a symbol of cultural identity and heritage.

“I do not consider myself a gifted writer,” Lisa says. “I feel surprised, excited, grateful, and humble at the same time.”

Lisa wrote her essay during a 10th-grade research unit when students read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Hurston. Lisa discusses African American Vernacular English and how it’s not “bad English,” as some people may perceive. 

“Rather, it's a full-fledged dialect and is complete with a systematic, coherent, rule-bound structure and grammar,” Lisa writes. “...language is simply one of the ways that Blacks have let their culture shine through and has even influenced American mainstream culture. …I use Black English because it is most natural to me. It’s authentic and captures the vital core of our experience.”

Eliza, a 2024 graduate, says she uses writing as “an escape mechanism,” she says, “a place where I can go when [life] gets stressful or I'm upset. I can just disappear into my words.”

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is the nation’s longest-running, most prestigious recognition for creative teens. The awards were founded in 1923, and Robert Redford, Stephen King, Andy Warhol, and Sylvia Plath are among dozens of notable winners.

Pictured top to bottom: Eli Coblenz '26, Building on Tradition sculpture, Lisa Liu '25, and Eliza McClelland '24.