Amarillo High student named Young Master

Amarillo High School junior Annyston Pennington, 17, isn’t sure she wants to be a full-time fiction writer, but she will have $2,500 this summer to help her find out.

Pennington was recently named one of 15 members of the 2012 class of Young Masters, sponsored by the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Texas Cultural Trust.

The program selects fine arts students every two years from eighth through 11th grade in subjects such as literature, dance, music and theater, said Amy Barbee, executive director of the Texas Cultural Trust.

Pennington was named a Young Master in the literature category and plans to put her $2,500 toward a three-week summer arts camp at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Mich.

“I’ve never been that far away from home and for that long,” she said. “I’m looking forward to being exposed to new professors and people who can challenge me to be a better writer.”

Pennington said she had almost given up hope on being named a Young Master before she received a phone call in late February telling her she had been selected for the program.

“I was very surprised,” she said. “I felt honored and really relieved. that week leading up to having to enter my portfolio for the competition was so stressful.”

Pennington said she submitted two short stories for the program in November. One was a historical fiction piece based during the French Revolution, she said. The other was loosely based on experiences she has had during her life, she said.

Barbee said the size of the Young Masters class varies every two years since it began in 2002. The class size has ranged from eight to 24 students, she said.

“It’s quality over quantity,” Barbee said.

The Young Masters are chosen by a panel of professionals in each category, she said. The program received more than 200 applicants this year, Barbee said.

Pennington said her painting teacher at Amarillo High, Trina Brown, gave her the idea to apply for the program.

Brown said she thought Pennington would be a good candidate for the program regardless of which category she entered because she is talented in several fine arts subjects such as painting and music.

“She has incredible creativity, an ability to think things through in a nontraditional way, and be able to come up with a unique and creative perspective,” Brown said. “That comes through in her writing, her art and her music.”

Pennington said she plays the cello.

As part of the program, Pennington is scheduled to attend the Young Masters conference April 23 in Austin.

The conference is designed to recognize the Young Masters, allow them to meet one another and offer them opportunities to meet with potential mentors in their field, Barbee said.

Barbee said her favorite part of the program is the chance to expose students to possible careers in arts fields they would not have discovered otherwise.

“When you actually have this kind of talent, to not lose that and have it be fostered and nurtured when you’re going through high school … is critical,” Barbee said.

Although Pennington is in the process of figuring out what type of career she wants to pursue, activities such as writing also allow her to relax and enjoy time to herself, she said.

“For those minutes of time that you have to actually sit down and write and focus on what you are doing, it’s like nothing else is going on,” she said. “That’s especially nice in high school.”

Amarillo High student named Young Master

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