The following literary pieces were selected from collected submissions of local student-written poems, essays, and short stories. ​

Thank you to WSWHE BOCES and to all of the students who contributed to this exhibit for inspiring us all with your thoughtful creations.​


The vibrant billboards, brilliant sarees, 

and intricately painted buses 

are a dazzling kaleidoscope of color 

juxtaposed against 

the stormy grey monsoon sky 

oblivious to it all. 



For the breeze of fear whispers into my ear

That perhaps I could blow away

Forever lost in the space between stars

Not yet , I say to the wind. Not yet.



UprootedPallavi Datta
The Stars and Their ShadowsSophie Dvorak


Click a name below or scroll down

*2020 Literary Winner


Some people say

That living

Is skydiving

Jumping off cliffs

Or going bull riding

Other people say

That living

Is dying

Is crying

Is failing and trying

Others don’t care

They just stare

At a blank



That they think is their life


I think that living

Is all of these things

Go on adventures Love one another And sometimes

We look

And we see nothing

Nothing at all


Life is like a cliff

In more ways than one

For example,

People will push you

Or stab you in the back

And you will fall

You will fall through gray clouds

White clouds

Black clouds

Pink clouds…

But the beauty of falling

Is that you can’t fall forever So instead


You’ll hit the ground

And it will hurt

A lot


And when you’re on the ground That cliff seems awfully big Those gray stone walls

Reaching the sky

And you cry

You think

How can I get there

It cannot be done

You’ve given up

Before you’ve even begun


But then you see people

climbing that wall

They aren’t giving up

Aren’t giving up at all

But you are stuck

In the muck

That is your doubt

And when you reach up

Or try to cry out

There is only silence,

Nothing is done

And you wonder how no one

Is there

Because God knows

That for you to get out

Someone needs to lend you a hand And someone will


You thank that someone

Continue on your way

To that great rock wall You begin to climb

Wow, that’s so high

You grasp little finger holds


With big fingers

And you slip

And fall

But you keep getting up

Instead of giving up

The task ahead seems impossible But the task itself says

“I’m possible”

So you keep climbing

You climb away

Until one day

You reach the top

And you stop

And look at the world around

The sun is setting

Below the ground


You look down

That’s a lot of people

Down in the  muck

A lot of people,

Who are stuck

You reach out your hand

As far as you can

But you can’t reach them


Cheer instead

Tell them they can

That is your way

Of lending them a hand,


Keep trying

Keep failing

But most importantly,

Keep climbing

Mother Nature lifts her arms 
At the conductor’s podium,

Instructing the reddened sunrise

To fill the sky with shades of blush

And the make the slumbering

Creatures stir.


The whistling of the wrens 
Paired with the babbling  
Of the bubbling brook, 
Trips and tumbles through  
The humid summer breeze

Landing amongst the audience.


The leaves whisper as they 
Rustle amongst the pines’ 
Sun bleached needles,  
Punctuated by the spattering 
Of droplets leaving a heavy  
Scent of metallic petrichor.

She stands amid the orchestra,

Playing nature’s greatest symphony,

As the audience collectively gasps

At the crescendo of the clouds

Ripping through with a

Sudden peal of thunder.


The darkness overwhelms the

Stage filled with willows and

Songbirds and gusts,

But the clouds play on

Quieter and quieter until

They are imperceptible.


Silence. The hum of nothingness.

Her still hands come to her sides

And she faces the crowd

With a dip of her head.

Yet the song of the summer storm

Rings still in their minds.

"(Title TBD)"

Let’s string along some words,

In no particular order

Jump, Down, High

Suddenly they seem to have

A meaning

Something to give them worth

I don’t get it,

I don’t get how someone finds meaning

Or beauty

In words strung together

In their tiny little phrases

Or their long flowing lines

Mixed and stirred

As if by design

Some may spend seconds

Or minutes

Or hours

Or days, Or weeks, or years

Or even lifetimes

Pondering, searching, finding

The meaning that words are made for

Every letter, every tone and every enunciation,

Suddenly becomes a world

A life

A day

A night

A thing of beauty

A thing of flight

I don’t get it

I will never get it

No one will ever truly catch it

Words are meant to be chased

Across time

And across space


I feel quakes in Bluebeard’s palace.

Nervous rain flees the keystone,

And colors paint the glassy void of Alice.

Olympians remind that I am one

Among the shadows; We find solace

In stories beginning with Creon.

Edges and splashes frolic in this place,

Yet, vibrations only echo clearer in my pantheon

Sizzles and sparks of witchcraft

Births a doomed diamond.

I see the snaps of stars, and laugh.

Wade the floor of the flood,

Where God showers song and spit;

Inter haec, circum lucem currit.

The Song of the Summer StormKaylee Bagdan

Usually, when I am standing outside 
I cast my face downwards  
And look towards my shoes

I am seeking my footprint, the quick, 
Breathless shadow of the bottom of my sole 
In the dirt


I watch the place where my  
Body meets the Earth

And try to plant myself there, as grounded as possible


For the breeze of fear whispers into my ear 
That perhaps I could blow away 
Forever lost in the space between stars


Not yet​ , I say to the wind. ​Not yet.


Perhaps tomorrow, when I stand outside, 
I will cast my face upwards instead


And when the stars glisten down at me, 
I will smile back 
At them and their shadows.


I am here, in the earth, and on it 
And when the stars and their moonbeams shine on me 
I can let the symphony of my heart cry out into the trees

And the leaves rustle, and the rain trickles down in tiny torrents of blue crystal 
My face flushes the red of apples, of flame, of the trees in the heart of autumn, the climax of life

I am here! And the stars and their shadows sigh in exuberance 
Reflecting my folly and passion 
I am here.

And my face and heart are open to the sun

And the rain


To the stars 
And their shadows. 

The Stars and Their ShadowsSophie Dvorak

I walk through my roots, 
the earthen path uneven beneath my feet,

and the steamy air caressing my cheek.

The streets of Kolkata pulse 
with energy, ebbing and flowing 
with the syncopated rhythm of a city 
that runs on its own schedule. 
I am immersed in a cacophony of noises-

the boisterous honking of cars, 
frenzied conversations and 
customers bartering in street-shops.


The vibrant billboards, brilliant sarees, 
and intricately painted buses  
are a dazzling kaleidoscope of color

juxtaposed against 
the stormy grey monsoon sky 
oblivious to it all. 
I am a spectator,  
lost in the hustle and bustle  
of this unfamiliar world, 
glimpsing a life I will never know.

The scenes swirl around me, 
the Kolkata cityscape blurring, dissolving,

replaced by cerulean sky, 
viridescent leafy boughs 
and rows of tidy, nearly identical houses.

The tranquil silence of our sleepy,

mundane town descends upon me. 
Those memories of a faraway land 
are set aside, pushed under  
the everyday thoughts and worries, 
buried deep.


But they linger, echoing, 
woven through the shimmering silk kurtas,

tucked in the loose Darjeeling tea leaves,

embodied by the dancing melody of the raga

on my dad’s favorite sitar track, 
in my grandmother’s chutneys we  
bring back home to slowly savor.  
And I recall those three weeks in August

which now seem but a hazy reverie... 

UprootedPallavi Datta

 The hands of my maker are careful, building me slowly through time 

Four point six billion years to bring my essence to life 

Molded in their likeness, but willed to become unique 

A one hundred year divot in eternity to create a legacy 

Showers of stars painting a portrait of destiny 

Forty-three degrees north, seventy-three degrees west 

A house where morality is shaped and values are formed 

Two hundred and forty-six trillion memories stored in one address 

Sisters run wild, a fondness for creation and imagination erupts 

A hundred and fifty miles from one embrace to another 

Encountering invisible portals and new lands within every set of walls 

Fifteen blood ties weaving discovery of unknown passions into my veins 

Teachers of mind and heart showing me the need for kindness and respect 

Two ears absorbing every ounce of blissful laughter, learning the trade 

Sharing jokes for the road trip of life, giggles are the best medicine 

Twenty pairs of hands saving me from storms of insecurity 

Cherished guidance given by those bonded not by blood but by spirit 

Three weekends a year to grow the friendships dearest to my heart 

Time that flows like sand through tear-stained fingers waving goodbye 

Eleven years since the first grade taught me how to learn 

Numbers on a sheet of paper that began to herald my future 

A hundred thousand books, words bringing truth to soul, feeding the mind 

Forging a hero from a commoner, a leader from a child, a champion from a worker 

Sixty plus craftsmen, their knowledge leaving impressions that will fashion my course 

Thoughts flourish and thrive enjoying growth that comes with understanding 

Thirty-seven songs to sing praise, beckoning me to enter into love beyond all love 

Enveloped in grace and forgiveness, troubles melt away 

Countless intentions and praises I lift up to the heavens 

By every trial, adventure, and victory foreseen by my maker 

I have been sculpted 

SculptedElonne and Qwin

A tree sprouts to life. 

It begins to grow. Its branches 

Sprout like little arms. 

Its leafs are hands, casting shadows 

Throughout the land. 

This is the life of my tree.

The life of my tree 

It means so much to me, giving me life 

By the air I breathe. I walk on land 

Watching birds stand on the branches 

of this tree. This tree casts shadows, 

Which dance on my arms.

No one bares any arms 

While I'm at this tree. 

It is a place of peace and love, where no shadows 

Of hate linger. My life

Is calm with its branches 

In my palms, as my view embraces this land.


I’d die if this land 

Was taken from me. They could bare their arms, 

But the men could never take these branches 

From me. I love this tree. 

I would give my life 

Just to see its dancing shadows.


I refuse to allow any shadows 

Of evil to enter this land. 

It is home to my tree, to my life. 

I would stretch my arms 

To protect my tree 

And keep safe its branches. 

I must protect my tree, roots to branches, 

From enemies. My shadow 

Will lay still as I stay by my tree, 

For it means so much to me. I know this land 

like my own hands and arms. 

This tree is my life. 

I love this tree, and all of its branches.


For this tree is my life, I couldn’t exist without these shadows.

My home has become this beautiful, peaceful land. My tree will only know my love, my touch, and the hug from my arms. 

Music does not mean 

High school credits, 

A last choice elective, 

A class you have to sit through.


Music does not mean 

Just going through the motions, 

trying to get rich, 

Or famous.

Music means 

A feeling you let in, 

An experience you invite, 

A whole new culture you didn't know existed.


Music means 



And beauty.


Music means 

To be confident, 

To be Vulnerable, 

To be human.

Music is another way of life. 


Put on my headphones,

Drowning out my day,

Escape from reality,

Just the song and I,

I live for the music.


Hard thumping bass,

Loud smashing drums,

Fast fingers on the piano,

Rhythm of the guitar,

I live for the instruments.


Under Pressure with David Bowie,

Freddie Mercury and Queen,

The king himself Elvis Presley,

And the Prince of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne,

I live for the musicians.


Music for the soul,

Reflections of sadness and anger,

Emotional healing,

Deep feelings of loss and regret,

I live for the way it makes me feel.


Heavy beat,

Loud instruments,

Self-absorbed lyrics,

Raving delivery,

I live for Rock and Roll.

Earbuds on, everything else drifts away

As the music starts to pound in my ears

Drowning in all the lights and sounds and colors

Fading into a backdrop of splattered paints and shattered glass


Thump, thump, thump streaks navy and red 

As the hairs on my neck stand up

Piano creeps up and down in a sea of sky blue

Purple lights flash as the chorus rings in my ears

Goosebumps appear when the beat drops 

And fires spread across my mind 


I vanish in the music, blending in with the colors

Trying to nestle into the colors and sounds

To get far away from the chaos and bleakness of reality

Only surrounded by the notes am I safe



Darkness surrounds me, making my head pound

Suffocating under the weight of everyday monotony 

But I know all I have to do is turn on the music

And I can breathe in the blinding lights and sounds again


No matter how far into the dark I wander

No matter how many dangers I face

The music will always lead me, safe and sound

Back to where I belong


Birthed with the hammering beast,

I started the journey over brass plates; With hollow rythmique crashes, Allowing life to the rest;

I watched each one rise,

It was truly something I must confess;



As flesh escalated down thin strands; My first brother was born,

One of demand and swell;

I watched him gain his sight, Then proceed as if he owned; AsI being the first,

I set him back in pace; Broken harmony now restored;

We introduced a sister next; One that was delicate and light,

Then cordial and deliberate;

She cast a spell upon the keys, Making her an unnoticed center; I had no disputes with her,

Not even when she went solo;


A few seconds after birthed the second brother, He was smooth and lazy;

Breezing out the curved bow, Adding delightful taste to the current flow;He was not my favorite,

For he always thought he was best;

The last brother was a mystery; He was dark and brooding, With a deep, fluid cry;

From the vibrating strings, He undertook the undertone; Was the bass of it all,

I held him with such revere;


Individually pounded towards the center, We danced together in a jig;

Flowing out towards the sea of masks,

We peered at each other with final gratitude,

For each one took their last breath before me; I, the first born, saw the end,

No fear did make way,


For I knew we would see each other again someday.

I love music

It can change my mood in a second

It’s beautiful to hear

It’s attractive to watch

I can connect with music

Music on a Sunday evening, with hot chocolate in our hands, happily singing along to those catchy rhythms. Singing together, plopping ourselves into the song, like we were the ones that wrote it. Nothing can be better than music. 

I hate music

It changes and morphes over time

It’s impossible to understand

It’s repetitive and boring

It’s fake

Music lied to me about what music is. I thought I could trust music but I was wrong. Music doesn’t make me as happy as I thought. All my friends hated my music and I know why now. Nothing can be worse than music.

I forgive music

It can change and so can I

It is complicated and I am too

It can slowly drift away, just like me

It ends on high notes and low notes

That’s just music.


Gathering myself

Listening alone

Don’t want to be alone

I’ll uncover the melody

The one that defines me

It’s varied and sporadic

Always different

It will be

But when you listen

You’ll jump along

Listening to my song

The melancholic ever-lasting sweet song

I’m found alone

The song in my head


This sweet song ringing

I walk along the line

The white line finds itself hugging the dawn

I keep moving on

Walking the endless line

Bopping around to the sweet song

There is no pinnacle to this tune

A vacant wasteland I walk

If you are young

You aren’t ready

Society brings you down

But I wish for my sweet song 

To be heard

Even if I’m alone

In this desolate place

Walking this white line



I want to be change

To build from scratch

Even if I can never recover 


What once was lost


The sun rose over the horizon of the small grove of trees,

As a poor old farmer began his picking of apples,

That grew upon the wooden branches,

To his dismay, the fruits were not red or green,

Nor were they even yellow,

No, they were blue and orange!


“What on Earth am I to do with apples colored blue and orange!”,

The man raved to the skies and his curious trees,

He would be lucky to see any coins colored yellow,

From the market for his discolored apples,

He felt sick and his face turned green,

As he imagined the mocking from the market branches.


With a sigh, he picked the apples from the branches,

In the hopes he’d find someone that’d buy apples dyed blue and orange,

And hoped no one mock him ‘till he turned green,

As he walked away, he wondered what malady struck his trees,

For it was well known that blue and orange were not the colors of apples,

He prayed he’d find a cure as he entered the plaza that was painted yellow.


As he walked to the market the sun was bright and yellow,

He saw troubles befouling those in the market branches,

That were quite similar to his case of discolored apples,

Madame Cosmetta’s pears were silver and orange,

Mr. Consigna found leaves of putrid purple on his trees,

And Little Susan found her lemonade had turned green!


As the farmer boggled at the beverage turned green,

He began to think of plan worth a ribbon colored yellow,

“Barely any tourists come because all this town is known for is its trees,”

The man thought as looked around the market branches,

“But with produce colored in colors such as orange,”

“We’ll be known for things besides trees and apples!”


So the man who harvested apples,

Ran to the mayor’s house, which was painted in green,

He pitched his idea, and the plan was sent to everyone in envelopes dyed orange,

Afterwards, more came and spent more coins colored yellow,

And the farmer was hailed as a hero by the market branches,

“To think I scorned my apples colored blue and orange!”


Today, orange-colored apples,

And purple trees as well as apricots dyed green,

Rake in many yellow coins to the town's market branches.


My grandfather changed my life and made me believe I could make it through the strife. Like a wise old owl, he brought me under his wing and his life story made my heart sing. It was a frigid day in March that I still remember, there was a strong breeze and it felt like December. I went inside his home in Clifton Park. I was cozy and felt brought in from the dark. I was rowdy and rambunctious at the time, being twelve years old and in my junior high prime. The decisions I made weren’t always the best, I wasn’t on track, and I was a mess. He sat next to me, a sturdy old man with his heart on his sleeve. He had grey hair and brown eyes and wouldn’t tell any lies. That day he told me a tale that in my mind would always prevail.

Grandpa told me of his childhood and it was nowhere near good. He grew up in a small town called Scranton, Pennsylvania. His dad worked in a coal mine for a very long time. Consequently, he died of black lung when my grandfather was very young. His family was low class, stuck in a town trapped in the past. A single mother was doing her best to support three girls and one young man not like the rest. He had to work hard to keep up his grades and was flying through school with straight A’s. He graduated from that small town and could finally move on now.

His family couldn’t afford his college tuition, so he joined the military to improve his position. He served our country for four years and when he returned from deployment he wept happy tears. His service paid for college so that he could be an engineer and have a family. He became wealthy with happiness and had a wife and a son. All of the hardest battles in life he had won. Grandpa made all the right decisions and had all the right plans. He came from nothing and grew into a man. He was able to become someone envied by many with love in his heart he would share with any.


He taught me through hard work and moral decisions I could persevere through any challenge with utmost precision. Through my knowledge I now know I can help others and show them the way to go. I can be a good citizen and help people learn that if they make good decisions they can obtain everything they yearn. I can apply this to everything I do in life and I can make it through the strife. Through right decisions I can make the world a better place and I can put on a happy face. Others will be able to see that if they follow this path like me they can change their course of life. They can be the catalyst for our generation to be good citizens and change the nation.


It’ll be at least another 30 minutes before Conner comes to get me. An hour if Mom

does. What can I do for an hour? It’s not like the guidance office has a tv…


Sure are a lot of tiles on this ceiling. Let’s see, that’s 1, 2, 4, 6-


Nope, I will not resort to counting ceiling tiles. I refuse to be that bored.


Instead, I take out my ipod. I just choose a random playlist and hit shuffle, I’m not in the

mood to cherry pick a song like usual. Watch you sleep by girl in red comes on, and I recognize

this as one of Ian’s playlists. He gave me this one after he left for college, so I didn’t miss him

so much. He said it always helped him calm down.


I didn’t like any of these songs at first. I love my brother, but his music taste has always

been questionable at best. I did miss him though, he and Conner both. By the time they came

home for Christmas break, I was listening to this playlist almost everyday.


The songs have grown on me since then. Besides, they remind me of Ian. It helps to

remember him, on days like this. Days when it feels like he was never here at all.


I think he felt guilty about leaving me back home. He shouldn’t have. He was going on

an adventure, he and his best friend were leaving for college in the big city. As far as I was

concerned, the last thing Ian should be thinking about then was his snot nose little sister.


“Mom’s not that bad,” I told him, “and I’ve got plenty of friends at school that I can talk

to while you’re not here to annoy me. I’ll be fine .” He gave me that timid smile he always used

to wear.

“I know Katie baby.” he told me, “But you know me, I just worry is all.”


Katie baby. No one’s called me Katie baby since I was 12.


No one’s called me Katie baby since Ian went missing.


I shouldn’t have put girl in red on. This band always makes me think too much. But I

don’t have anything else to play, and I don’t feel like turning Ian’s music off just yet. It really

does make me miss him a little less.


I turn the volume up to max, lay back, and try as hard as I can to turn off my brain.


It doesn’t work.


Tests. One test can change your life forever, such as an SAT test, a driver’s test, a pregnancy test, or even a simple ELA test. But that’s not what this story is about. This story is about me, Jade, and how my life changed because of a test, the kind that life throws at you.

I was on my way to my fourth-grade classroom when my name was called over the loudspeaker. The principal’s voice was thunderous but humbly, “Jade Kittle to the office.” I had been to the office before for stupid things I had done, so I knew the routine. But for some odd feeling, this was different. As I walked into the principal's office, I had noticed a stranger with a badge. The lady had red, soft curly hair and she looked happy, with a light smile, but I was not. I was nervous, maybe even a bit scared. The lady held out her hand and smiled again, politely. Me, living in rougher parts of Albany, did not shake hands with strangers, especially ones that wore badges. So I returned a fake smile and waited for her to speak. “Hello Jade,”  She said. “My name is Shirley. I am a CPS worker.” At the time, I had no idea what that was, but I soon found out.

Misunderstood, and still fake smiling, I had asked the question that I couldn’t stop wondering, “Am I going home?” Her serious expression and sorrow face already had answered that question for me. “Afraid not. We’re going to go for a ride.” Turns out, my home had been “too unsafe” and “not fit for children” to live in. On that day, January 25th 2015, I had packed my things, and my little brother Christopher and I moved in with a new family.

This move, in its simplest form, was scary. I quickly became extremely sad and homesick. We had stayed with this new family for roughly 10 ½ months. We still received visits with our biological mother. Those were the worst. I hated them so much. I would scream and blame her for losing us, though she promised she’d never do it again.


I also lost a lot of myself throughout the years. I lost my dignity, my happiness, and my soul. I eventually began going to counseling to talk to someone about my terrible experiences with my biological mother. My counselor soon became my best friend. She did all she could to make me happy. As a happier person, I had done something I wouldn’t ever think to do: start living my life.

Finally, we were placed with a new family for the weekend and got to visit my two other siblings. We’d stay with that family for the weekend to visit our two younger siblings.


As soon as I had stepped foot in the Orapello’s house, I knew. This was my family.


Saratoga Performing Arts Center

108 Avenue of the Pines

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

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