South Orangetown Central School District

“Chinatown,” authored by Tappan Zee High School freshman Daniel Yoo, has earned a 2021 Scholastic Arts & Writing Regional Silver Key Award for poetry!

“It’s actually lyrics to a song that I began writing on my bus ride home,” Yoo explained. “I started writing as a way to release stress. I was really down because I felt like I wouldn’t be going anywhere, like I would never be able to achieve my goals. Writing songs about what I feel has made me feel more at peace with myself.”

Korean R&B singer Dean has been an inspiration for Yoo, who first began writing lyrics in December. “He’s been a role model. He’s not afraid of what he wants to say and it’s helped me to feel less afraid.”

While appreciating the accolade, Yoo would prefer to have people know about him as a person, rather than as a result of recognition. So, here’s what he’d like you to know: “I like to make new friends and help people as much as I can. A lot of us don’t feel content with ourselves. The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty and our generation doesn’t know what will happen next. At the same time, we also compare ourselves to others and think that we should be further along than we are. There’s a lack of confidence and tendency to overthink things.”

TZHS English teacher Christopher Novak expressed pride in Daniel’s accomplishment. “Daniel is a thoughtful and diligent student. He brings an insightful perspective to class and he asks questions that show a desire for a deeper understanding of what we’re reading. I’m not surprised that Daniel earned this recognition because of the insights he has shared throughout the school year. I hope he continues writing and further developing that perspective.”

Yoo says that writing for its own sake, rather than recognition, has been a source of respite and resilience. “I’m starting to feel more motivated.”

Congratulations, Daniel!

Outdoor headshot of Daniel Yoo