February 2020
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Three AHA Writers Earn Recognition, Publication

Demarest, NJ: Writers Isabella Dail of Saddle River, Natasha Dhanrajani of Bardonia (NY), and Gian Lee of Englewood Cliffs have garnered regional accolades in the 2020 Scholastic Art & Writing Competition. These members of the Academy of the Holy Angels Class of 2022 received attention for poetry, essays, and a script. In addition, Dhanrajani just had her fourth piece published in “Scrawl,” a compilation of juried submissions from Rockland County residents.

Dail received a Gold Key and a Silver Key in the regional Scholastic Art & Writing Competition. Her Gold Key symbolically “unlocks” her ability to continue to the national event.

“My Gold Key entry is a personal essay written in a mystery format about a medical condition I experienced,” Dail revealed. “When writing this piece, I enjoyed experimenting with structure and utilizing mystery to create suspense. My Silver Key is another personal essay. It discusses family relations during my grandmother's illness and subsequent death. I used an extended metaphor about my grandmother's beach house to carry my message.

“I am honored that my piece has been recognized at the regional level, and I am excited for it to be considered at the national level.”

Dail works on the AHA newspaper and literary magazine, and belongs to the Writers’ Society. She also enjoys interacting with prospective students in her role as an Angel Ambassador. Outside of AHA, Dail plays tennis and serves as a lector at Saint Gabriel’s Church in Saddle River. This spring, she will participate in the AHA Oxford Study Abroad Program.

Dhanrajani received a Silver Key for her dramatic script, “Broken Scribe.” She explained that her love for writing took root when she was going through her “book phase” in the sixth grade. She would finish 400-600 page novels in three to four days. The first story she wrote was a science fiction piece that was accepted by “Scrawl.” The publication’s judges subsequently accepted Dhanrajani’s personal memoir, a short prose piece (2019), and a poem (2020).

“As much as I love experimenting with these genres, I have fallen in love with dramatic scripts ever since I took a three-week acting workshop at the New York Film Academy in New York City. In addition to perfecting our craft as actors/actresses for film, we would intensely analyze the characters, and build them from a piece of paper to real life,” Dhanrajani said. “What is unique about screenwriting is the freedom of interpretation of the character. An actor or actress can read dialogue in various tones, demeanors, etc. The possibilities of abstract interpretation of characters from scripts are endless, unless specified on the document itself.”

She has also taken a creative writing course at Columbia University. As an aficionado of television and cinema, Dhanrajani developed a deep affection for screenwriting.

“With play scripts, you are limited to as little as one location of setting for the entire story for production purposes. With screenwriting, you can let your imagination run free,” she said.

In 2019, Dhanrajani won a Gold Key for her film script “Hidden Identity.”

Lee received an Honorable Mention for her poem, “My Brother Shot Me in the Stomach.”

“I have been writing poetry for about two years and I like it because I feel like I can express my feelings and creativity without limitations,” she said. “The story behind ‘My Brother Shot Me in the Stomach’ was a dream that I had about my brother chasing me and eventually shooting me in the stomach. The next day, we went out to meet old friends, and he embarrassed me in front of everyone, and I felt that my dream had warned me about the future by showing my brother would ‘betray’ me.”

Lee, who is also a gifted photographer, also earned an Honorable Mention in the art portion of the regional Scholastic competition. She also expresses herself through painting and drawing. At AHA, she participates in Angels on Air, a video news program; and Fiesta 4 Hope, an organization that provides aid to rebuild Puerto Rico. When she is not at AHA, Lee volunteers for Give Chances, where she helps children who need academic assistance, but do not have access to private tutors or programs.

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.

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