LAWRENCE — A teen who designed artwork expressing her emotions and fears after the Sept. 13, 2018, gas disaster is among a group of Lawrence students recognized in the statewide portion of the national Scholastic Art & Writing competition.
Stephanie Lima, a Lawrence High School sophomore, created two pieces using charcoal pencil and black pen on print editions of The Eagle-Tribune's gas disaster coverage. The disaster occurred when an over-pressurized gas line caused explosions, fires and evacuations in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.
"Persevere Together," a piece depicting her hugging a friend after the disaster, won an honorable mention.
Some 350,000 original works are submitted by students across the country each year in the Scholastic competition. It's the longest running, most prestigious initiative of its kind, according to Heather Langlois, Lawrence public schools art coordinator.
Students can earn gold, silver or honorable mention distinctions. Only pieces in the gold category move on to the national competition, she said.
"This is the largest art competition in the nation. When you win the Scholastic, it's the pinnacle. It's the equivalent to winning a state championship in a sport," Langlois explained. "It's really an opportunity to be judged on an adult level for your work."
Scholastic also is the largest source of scholarship money for young artists and writers, Langlois said.
"It's an amazing thing to put on a college application. It's such an honor and it's huge to have even an honorable mention," she said.
Others who placed in the contest include Parthum School eighth-grader Jenaliz Javier, who won a gold medal for her work.
A Pop Warner football player, Javier submitted a self-portrait in her uniform entitled "Girls Can't Do What?"
Langlois said the piece sends a great message to all "little girl athletes."
National medalists will be announced March 13.
Taking silver medals in the state contest were Lawrence High seniors An Vong for his submission, "One Pulse," and Daniella Cameron Santos, for her artwork entitled, "What's Next?"
Cameron Santos also earned an honorable mention for another submission, a portrait called "Luna."
Seniors Mimi Ton, Ashley Javier and Milea Alicia earned honorable mentions for their work, which they completed with art teachers Eric Allshouse and John Travlos, Langlois said.
Lima was featured in an Eagle-Tribune story in mid-November, 2018, as the Merrimack Valley continued to recover from the gas disaster.
Lima and her family initially had to evacuate their apartment on Diamond Street in South Lawrence and sought refuge at her aunt's small apartment in Methuen.
"There were eight of us in there and we stayed for three days," she said.
On Sunday, Sept. 16, a fire broke out in her family's Diamond Street apartment building. The blaze was ignited by an electrical problem in the building and was unrelated to the gas disaster, Lawrence fire Chief Brian Moriarty said.
Stephanie said her room in the apartment was heavily damaged by water. The door was broken and there were holes in the walls.
She had taken her phone and her charger, a few clothes and her toothbrush and retainer with her when they evacuated. But her laptop, printer and desk were destroyed and her clothes reeked of smoke. Canvas paintings and five sketchbooks were ruined.
"I lost all of my art," Lima said.
The family was able to move into another vacant apartment in the Diamond Street complex and she replaced some valuables, including her laptop, she said.
Langlois said all students who entered the Scholastic contest will visit Tufts University in mid-March where all gold winners from the state will be exhibited.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.