BY KAITLYN MEADE | When Newbery Award and Printz Honor Award-winning author Jack Gantos told eighth-grader Chantelle Roulston that he had exciting news for her mom, he was probably not expecting a reaction most 13-year-olds reserve for concert tickets.
“My eyes went really wide,” Roulston said. “And I then I was jumping up and down, screaming and yelling. Afterword, my sister reminded me he hadn’t told me I won first place. It would have been really embarrassing if I hadn’t,” she laughed sheepishly. “And then I realized he was still on the phone! My mom said, ‘take the phone…breathe…talk.’”
This was how Roulston found out she had won the Jack Gantos Writing Contest and along with it a four-year scholarship to her “number one” high school, the Léman Manhattan Preparatory School in the Financial District.
It’s quite an accomplishment, as only 30-40 students make up the ninth grade class out of hundreds of interested eighth-graders. It’s also quite a reward: high school tuition at the Broad St. school is $36,400 per year. Roulston will be the Jack Gantos Scholar for four years, after which, another scholar will be chosen.
A celebrated author of children’s and young adult novels, Gantos is a member of Léman’s advisory board and hand-selected Roulston’s short story, “The Droonovarseen,” which is a symbolic story about the stress of applying to high school after Hurricane Sandy had flooded her home in Rockaway Beach, Queens with seven feet of water and separated her from her mom.
“I wanted to get it out and express it in a way that most people don’t,” she said.
Roulston and finalists Ryan Ruscitto and Alei Rizvi were honored Feb. 16 at a writing workshop with Jack Gantos and a family lunch with Léman Manhattan’s Head of School, Drew Alexander, who presented them each with a certificate signed by the award-winning author recognizing their participation and accomplishment.