HomeSchools & YouthSan Marino’s Phalaen Chang Wins Gold Medal In National Competition

San Marino’s Phalaen Chang Wins Gold Medal In National Competition

Phalaen Chang, a San Marino resident and rising senior at California School of the Arts San Gabriel Valley in Duarte, won a gold medal in Written Poetry at the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics, a national competition in San Antonio, Texas. For her efforts, Phalaen was awarded a $2,000 scholarship and an iPad 6.
“I am still in a vague state of disbelief,” Phalaen said.
Phalaen learned about the competition from her school, where she is in the Creative Writing Conservatory. To qualify for the national competition, competitors had to receive a gold medal at the local level.
“The standard for the gold medal in both local and nationals was dependent on the points you received based on a rubric, and if no one met the number of points required for a certain medal, the medal would not be given out,” she explained.
Phalaen’s entry was mailed to officials prior to the competition. Once in San Antonio, contestants were interviewed by a panel of judges. Each entry was evaluated according to a rubric based on emotional connection, original thought, sequential development, structure, form, overall presentation and use of language as it related to the theme.
Phalaen was able to attend the program with the NAACP Pasadena-Duarte Branch, which took nine students to national competition. The themes of the awards ceremony were “Discover, Believe, Manifest” and “Defeat hate. Vote.”
“Though the competition was hosted by the NAACP, the experience showed me that the organization serves not just for the advancement of African Americans, but for the equality of all people,” Phalaen told The Tribune. “I went thinking that they would begrudge me for being Asian, but the warmth of my branch and the other participants from around the nation showed me otherwise. Throughout the conversation and interview with the judges, I was surprised to learn that my poem resonated with them, even though on the surface, we had nothing in common. It left within me the lesson that the job of being a writer is not just to write things that are ‘good,’ but to write things that can resonate with others in a way that tells their stories through my own.”
Earlier this summer, Phalaen also attended the Global Girl Media + Women’s Voices Now summer intensive program that was held at USC’s Annenberg School for Journalism.
“I have learned so much about so many different things and I am so grateful,” she said.
Before enrolling at California School of the Arts San Gabriel Valley, Phalaen was a member of San Marino High School’s award-winning Speech & Debate, Science and Poetry teams, and was on the junior varsity swim squad.
She is also an accomplished musician, having recently been selected as an alternate member of the National Youth Orchestra.
At California School of the Arts San Gabriel Valley, she is the editor of the school newspaper, the CA Artisan, which she basically started from scratch at the new school.
“That has been a rewarding experience,” she said. “I have really enjoyed helping young writers.”
The daughter of Sirena Cheng and Yaoming Chang, Phalaen is also a Los Angeles County youth poet ambassador and finalist for LA County Youth Poet Laureate. She is a member of National Honor Society and poetry editor of the school’s literary magazine. She is also a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times’ High School Insider.
Phalaen is still considering her potential college choices and plans on majoring in some combination of Chemistry, Journalism and/or Music.
“I’m not quite sure yet,” she said. “I guess I should probably start thinking about that.”
If not, there are any number of colleges who will gladly do the thinking for her.


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