Immaculate High School junior and Newtown resident Albert “A.J.” Vitiello received a National Medal in Flash Fiction from the 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, placing him in the top one percent of all submissions. Out of 330,000 submissions from students in grades 7-12, only 2,736 received National Medals. He will be honored by Scholastic at a special ceremony in June at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
A.J. won the National Medal for his flash fiction short "The Gospel According to Steve Harvey,” which depicts how a teenage girl’s relationship with her grandmother is affected by Alzheimer's disease. Another short story "Home," a tale about a homeless/immigrant teenager witnessing the terrorist attacks on September 11, won an Honorable Mention in the NY to CT region of the competition.
“I wrote ‘The Gospel According to Steve Harvey’ because I think that Alzheimer’s disease is a topic that doesn’t receive as much attention in literature as it should,” A.J. said. “My inspiration came from a family member who suffers from the disease,” he noted.
A.J. has received local recognition for this award. Senator Chris Murphy sent him a congratulatory letter, stating that “the ability to express oneself in any art form is invaluable...I am so proud of the example you have set for your peers.” He is now in good company; past Medalists have included celebrated authors and artists including Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford, Lena Dunham and Paul Chan.
This is not the first time A.J. has won Scholastic Awards. The future novelist submitted excerpts last year from the first five chapters of his novel “Field Mouse” that he is currently writing, and ended up winning a National Silver Medal in the Novel Writing category of the 2016 competition. Additionally, his horror story “Masks” won a Silver Key in the Hudson to Housatonic region of the 2016 competition.
“My dream is to be fiction writer, so I’ll probably take an English-related route for college; I already took a Creative Writing course at New York University last spring,” he said. Perhaps someday he will teach creative writing as well; A.J. has already-taught Creative Writing Camps for kids in grades 5-8 at the C.H. Booth Library in Newtown. His favorite genre to write is realistic fiction but when reading he loves all genres. A.J.’s favorite book is “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, and his favorite authors are Stephen King, George Orwell, Gillian Flynn and J.D. Salinger.
This summer A.J. will travel to Ghana, West Africa as a volunteer with Global Leadership Adventures. There he will will design lesson plans and teach basic English and math to Ghanaian children and make bricks for use in the construction of a new school. A.J. will also study social issues that face African women and children today, traditional art and dance and the influence of slavery on African nations. He also plans to speak with local leaders about how to combat modern day slavery and human trafficking and will spend time at an orphanage that houses children who have lost parents to HIV and AIDS. He is currently fundraising for this trip.
Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School also allows students to focus on their spiritual development, personal moral commitments and service to others. Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system.