At the beginning of this school year, English teacher Rachel Finn-Lohmann’s students embarked on a special challenge presented by the Learning Network at the New York Times. The task? To craft a tiny memoir encapsulating a memorable life moment in precisely 100 words or less. It was a challenge that inspired creativity and introspection and our students rose to the occasion.
The New York Times’ contest attracted nearly 13,000 entries from students worldwide, all between the ages of 13 and 18. The competition was fierce, but the talent of our Chandler students shone brightly. Among the thousands of entries, 15 winners, 31 runners-up and 56 honorable mentions were chosen. We are thrilled to announce that two of our students, Victoria Dai ‘24 and Christopher Sakonju ‘24, are among the distinguished few who have been recognized for their exceptional narratives.
Victoria Dai: Runner-Up
Victoria Dai's narrative stood out among the entries, earning her the title of runner-up in the New York Times Tiny Memoir Contest. Her ability to convey the essence of a profound life moment in just 100 words is nothing short of remarkable. Let's take a moment to appreciate Victoria's poignant 100-word piece:
Taste of Home by Victoria Dai
Amidst a sea of peanut-butter and jelly sandwich wielding second graders, I opened my lunch box to reveal a giant heap of sticky, see-through rolls, stuffed generously with lumps of gray shrimp and bitter vegetables, dripping with soy sauce.
Skeptical glances followed raised eyebrows as they peered into my thermos, as if the dark, murky liquid with tofu floating in chunks, clam, and pungent spices was utterly foreign.
My eyes shifted back to my friends’ contorted faces.
“Anyone wanna trade?”
The silence was suffocating as I contemplated whether to take a steaming spoonful of the otherworldly concoction—my heritage.
Christopher Sakonju: An Honorable Mention
Christopher Sakonju's narrative also captured the attention of the judges and earned him an honorable mention in the contest. Let's explore his evocative 100-word piece:
The Five Words by Chris Sakonju
The sound of the bell rang through the campus. It was time to take pictures. My face was slick with sweat from the blazing summer heat. I waited in line with my friends, anticipating the photo that was to come, when finally, it was my turn. I fixed my hair and stepped in front of the photographer. I smiled my natural smile, and the blinding flash signaled that the photo was taken. As I walked away, the photographer said, “Open your eyes next time.” These words hit me straight in the chest; five words that could kill an entire culture.
Celebrating Our Students' Achievements
We couldn't be prouder of Victoria and Christopher for their outstanding achievements in the New York Times Tiny Memoir Contest. At Chandler, we strive to nurture creativity, self-expression and the love of storytelling in our students. These two remarkable narratives serve as a reminder of the power of concise storytelling, where every word carries weight and every sentence evokes emotion. We hope that their achievements inspire our students to continue exploring the world of writing and storytelling.
Note: The 100-word narratives by Victoria Dai and Christopher Sakonju are presented as written by the students, unaltered and in their original form. We believe that their words speak for themselves and deserve to be showcased as they intended.