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Physics tests RPS 205 student’s mettle, but his novel earns gold

Nam novel

Quantum physics is Nam Pham’s true passion, but a detective novel he wrote has earned distinction in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

The eighth grader at the Gifted Academy at Thurgood Marshall School earned a Gold Key for “Luminol,” a novel illustrating humanity’s ignorance of the universe and its mysteries. The story’s main character works at a biotechnology company. The plot is filled with forensic science, secret code, origami and Nam’s favorite subject, theoretical physics.   

In the acknowledgements at the end of “Luminol,” Nam credits a language arts teacher at Marshall, Christopher Watts, as his mentor. Watts believes Nam is already light years ahead of him. “As soon as he breaks out the math, he loses me,” Watts said.

Nam and Giulyana Gamero, a fellow Marshall student who earned an honorable mention, went to Iowa City, Iowa, for a regional recognition ceremony for Scholastic last month. It was the first time Giulyana had been west of the Mississippi.

The trip—and the Scholastic honor—have helped Giulyana see herself as a writer, according to Carrie Rollins, who, like Watts, is a language arts teacher at Marshall. Giulyana’s story, “Creature,” is about a camping trip that takes a detour into the abnormal.

“Things get, you know, a bit chaotic,” Giulyana said.

Nam and Giulyana are among 51 students in the Rockford Public Schools whose works were recognized by Scholastic for excellence. The awards are the country’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition and scholarship program for students in grades 7-12.

Honors in RPS 205 included two Gold Medalists (Ty Kiatathikom and Esther Veitch, both of Auburn High School) and three Silver Medalists (Kiatathikom, Sydney Fields of Auburn and Symone Joyce of Jefferson High School). Gold Medalists are recognized at Carnegie Hall. Scholastic’s regional affiliate, the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa, judged more than 7,000 pieces of art and writing from students this year.

As a Gold Key winner, Nam Pham had the opportunity for his piece to be judged on a national level. Writing “Luminol” has challenged him. “I would enjoy saying that my skills and logic have improved greatly,” he wrote in a personal reflection, “but still (are) no match for any of the great detectives or intellectuals.”

Mary Kaull is strategic communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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