Haley Ference

Ringgold senior Haley Ference received several honors from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards of Southwestern Pennsylvania, including best-of-show honors in art and writing.

For Haley Ference, creating isn’t necessarily an enjoyable endeavor.

Painting, drawing and writing, for the Ringgold senior, is a compulsion.

“I feel like I have to do it,” Haley said from one of the school’s art rooms. “It’s an urge. It doesn’t make me overjoyed. Well, sometimes it does. But it’s something I am. I feel like I have to do it. ... It’s not natural for me to not be doing art.”

Haley, 17, is always working on something. She has notebooks filled with ideas and concepts for future works.


Haley’s mural, right, painted in a Ringgold High School hallway, resides next to a creation of former student Stephanie M. Engel. “Her work is just flawless,” said Haley. “When I was working, I would look over and think, ‘I need to be better.’”

Haley has created such a substantial collection of work, she was able to enter 32 pieces into this year’s Scholastic Art and Writing Awards of Southwestern Pennsylvania – and earned honors for many of them, including best-of-show in writing and art.

“I selected work I thought would be relevant,” she said. “I’m so grateful.”

This is the 16th year for the awards, sponsored by California University of Pennsylvania and administered by a board of local artists, writers and retired teachers.

Honored students, their families and teachers, will be guests at a reception Sunday at noon on the third floor of Cal U.’s Manderino Library. The community is invited to the reception, as well as to the awards ceremony at 2 p.m. in Steele Auditorium.

The regional program, one of more than 100 affiliates of a national program, serves students in grades 7-12 in Washington, Greene and Fayette counties.

In Southwestern Pennsylvania, 186 pieces of writing were submitted by 101 students, to which the judges awarded 10 Gold Keys, 27 Silver Keys and 44 Merits. Three hundred thirty-nine artworks were submitted by 124 students, to which judges awarded 39 Gold Keys, 44 Silver Keys and 85 Merits.

Schools participating include Avella Area Jr. Sr. High School, Belle Vernon Middle School, Brownsville Area Middle School, Canon-McMillan High School, Carmichaels Area High School, Central Christian Academy, Charleroi Area High School, Connellsville Area High School, Fort Cherry High School, Mapletown High School, Peters Township High School and Middle School, Ringgold High School and Middle School, Trinity High School and Middle School and Waynesburg Central High School.

Following the awards ceremony at Cal U., Gold Key artwork will be on display at Citizens Library, Washington, from Feb. 20 to March 3, when an open reception will be held from 1-4 p.m. in the library’s public meeting room. The collection can be viewed during library hours, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. As other events may be taking place in that space, library administrators advise calling 724-222-2400, ext. 230 or 222 before planning to view the collection.

The work receiving Gold Keys also will be entered into the national Scholastic competition.

In addition to Ference, students whose work earned best-of-show honors in writing were Allison Sedlak of Belle Vernon Middle School; Emily Ewbank of Trinity Middle School; Benjamin Zeisloft of Peters Township High School; and Shurthi Shivkumar of Peters Township High School. Students whose work earned best-of-show honors in art, in addition to Haley, were Aja Miller of Avella Jr. Sr. High School; and Bailey Beckett of Trinity High School.

The 2018 writing jury included Cal U. professors Dr. Brent House, Dr. Scott Lloyd and Dr. Kim Vanderlaan; West Virginia University professor Renee Nicholson; and Pierpont College professor Natalie Sypolt; retired teachers and other artists and writers.

The 2018 art adjudication was administered by Waynesburg University Art Department Chair Andy Heisey. Jurors included local artists Jim and Linda Winegar, Kit Paulsen, John Hinderliter, California professor Dr. Scott Lloyd, Sandy and Mike Boyles, and Mark Marietta.

Each June, Gold Key winners are honored at Carnegie Hall, and Gold Key art is exhibited at the Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design. Selected pieces are also part of a travelling exhibit in the summer, which begins at the Department of Education in Washington, D.C.

Haley’s works will be among those on display.

'How to prevail...'

Haley’s piece, “How to Prevail When the Adversary is the Mind,” was honored by Scholastic with a Gold Key.

Her art instructor, Theresa Campa, said she can’t wait to see what’s in store for her humble and well-spoken student.

“She never ceases to amaze me,” Campa said. “Her dedication and hard work come so naturally, and she is wise beyond her years. Each work of art she creates intertwines with a well-thought-out plan and deep emotional significance. When you speak with her, she describes her art with such meaning, it leaves the audience to ponder the artwork’s complexity at a whole new level. I can’t even express in words how proud I am of Haley and her achievements. It makes me rest easy to see such a bright future for one of my students.”

Art teacher Al Lewis said Haley’s diligence is rare.

“She is definitely one-of-a-kind,” said Lewis. “It’s amazing what she can produce in such a short amount of time.”

Although she appreciates the praise, Haley, who plans to attend Cal U. in the fall, cringes when someone calls her “talented.”

“I didn’t start good. I was terrible,” she said. “I worked to be where I am.”

Haley said she chooses to spend her time writing and creating, often giving up other pursuits for art. She said she wouldn’t be where she is without the unwavering support of her aunt, Diane Ference.

Haley plans to more thoroughly explore painting in college and wants to one day work in a museum, because she’s not only passionate about creating art, but also preserving it.


“Daydreaming,” in colored pencil, received a Scholastic Gold Key award.

“Art is a form of history. Art is reflective of society … and insight into the individual’s mind,” she said. “I’m scared of wasting time. That’s my biggest fear. I don’t want to look back and think I wasted my life and days on things that don’t matter. By the time I’m done, I want to be so worn down and tired, I want arthritis is my fingers. That’s how you know you’ve lived. I don’t want to smolder, I want to burn.”

For more information on Scholastic, visit www.artandwriting.org.

Community Editor

Natalie Reid Miller is Community Editor and has worked at the Observer-Reporter since 2013. With fellow Observer-Reporter journalists, she won the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania’s Ray Sprigle Memorial Award for the “Under the Label” social series.

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