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PV Neighbors: Palos Verdes Peninsula High valedictorian ready to tell powerful stories

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Claire Easton will be honored at Carnegie Hall with the 2018 Scholastic Art and Writing National Gold Medal for Poetry. She is one of the 2018 valedictorians at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School.

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Watch out world — here comes Claire Easton.

Claire, daughter of Rosa and Mark Easton, is one of the 2018 Valedictorians from Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, and a straight A student for all four years.

Claire was featured in South Bay Magazine, is the Editor in Chief of the Peninsula High yearbook, Captain of Varsity Song and received Athletic Awards for Varsity Lacrosse. For three straight years, she received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for community service.

On top of that, Claire won the 2018 Scholastic Art and Writing National Gold Medal for Poetry. This June, she will be honored at the National Ceremony in New York City at Carnegie Hall. Her poem, Assimilation in Seven Parts, was one of the top 1% of all art and writing submitted in the country, and one of five gold medal poems in California.

Claire’s poem highlights her mother’s life after her family left Korea in 1971 and moved to America.

“I grew up hearing this story, but I never placed it into cultural context until recently,” Claire said. “I believe that the story makes the poem powerful, not how I wrote it. Unfortunately, the xenophobic undertones of the poem are still alive and well forty years later, which I wanted to call attention to.”

“When I was younger,” Claire went on. “I often rejected my Korean heritage because it made me different, but over the years I’ve come to embrace my multicultural background as a formative part of who I am.”

Claire was highlighted in "South Bay Magazine’s 19 under 19" for her work in art therapy at Peninsula High. “I’ve always been inclined to doodle,” she said, “not to avoid listening in class, but because it’s therapeutic.”

Curious about why it relieved her stress, Claire searched the internet for answers and found Dr. Paige Asawa, an art therapy professor at Loyola Marymount University. Together, Claire and Dr. Asawa implemented a ten-week pilot art therapy program at the high school, targeting at risk students.

“As a participant observer in the program, I became a double agent of change,” Claire told me. “I understood my peers on a new level, watching them express feelings through artwork but also exploring the psychological implications behind its therapeutic effect through research.”

The program was so successful that it caught the attention of the administrators, who implemented it in another school in the district.

Claire has achieved her long term dream to attend Columbia University — a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City.

Reflecting on her selection, the 18 year old said, “It was my first choice school and I’m still blown away by the fact that it’s becoming a reality. I’m grateful to be able to attend and to have had so much support over the years to get me there. Columbia fits my needs and interests perfectly.”

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Submitted photo

Claire Easton will be honored at Carnegie Hall with the 2018 Scholastic Art and Writing National Gold Medal for Poetry. She is one of the 2018 valedictorians at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School.