Canyon Crest Academy senior Perry Chen, 18, has won a Scholastic Art and Writing Awards National Gold Medal in Film & Animation for his directorial debut Changyou's Journey, after winning multiple 2018 Scholastic Art and Writing Western Regional Awards on Jan. 30 (a Gold Key Award for the same film, and four critical essay writing awards for his movie, theater and restaurant reviews). Chen is the only National Gold Medal Winner in Film & Animation from San Diego this year, according to a press release. He is among six students this year who are honored with a Special Achievement Award by The New York Life Foundation, and the only Film & Animation winner in this category.
The New York Life Foundation provides scholarships of $1,000 each to students whose work exemplifies how the arts can act as a positive outlet to cope with grief, and raises public awareness of the issue of youth bereavement. Chen’s animation film Changyou's Journey was made in honor of his late father, a Stanford-trained biotech founder and cancer researcher who lost his life to cancer itself in 2012. Chen is among only 15 students honored in both National Gold Medal and Special Achievement Award categories (The New York Life Foundation Award, The Herblock Award for Editorial Cartoon, and Civic Expression Award) this year.
Grief is a difficult journey, but having a creative outlet can provide a safe space. But for teens trying to make peace with the loss of a parent, a teacher, a caregiver, or even a friend, finding ways to express bereavement can open a door to healing. In 2017, The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the New York Life Foundation have created a special partnership to encourage bereaved teens in grades 7–12 who have personally experienced a loss through the death of a close loved one to create original works of art or writing that explore their responses to a range of grief and emotion.
“The recognition that Mr. Chen is receiving is well-deserved. His extraordinary work is helping our mission to raise awareness about the issue of childhood bereavement and changing the grief conversation into one that focuses on inspiration, empowerment and resiliency. His film also helps to inform the larger community of parents, guardians and educators about how vital the role of the arts is in assisting childhood bereavement,” said Maria Collins, vice president, New York Life Foundation.
Chen and his mother Dr. Zhu Shen, who is the producer and executive producer of Changyou's Journey, are invited to attend a week-long national celebration in New York City with all other National Gold Medalists and Special Achievement Award winners, highlighted in a national awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall on June 7, where Chen will be honored on stage. They are also invited to a Board of Directors Reception for Special Achievement Award and Gold Portfolio Medalists at Carnegie Hall immediately following the awards ceremony
“I’m truly honored and grateful to both Scholastic Inc. and New York Life Foundation for the wonderful awards and for their encouragement in my mission to foster empathy and compassion to those who suffered profound losses,” Chen said. “Changyou’s Journey is the ultimate gift that took me five years to give to my dad and to all who experienced the loss of a loved one. What I hope the audience can take away from it all is a profound appreciation for life and hope for the future. It is dad’s enduring legacy. New York is a city that I longed to visit since childhood, for its vibrant culture and art scenes, its fascinating history, commerce, and gourmet food. And to be honored inside the iconic Carnegie Hall for my animation directorial debut is beyond my wildest dream! Mom and I are so happy that our co-producer and composer David Arend, who lives in New York City, will join us at the Carnegie Hall award ceremony!”
Changyou's Journey recently won Chen another prestigious award, the 2018 National YoungArts Foundation Finalist Award in Cinematic Arts, the highest honor given by the organization. Chen was nominated as a 2018 US Presidential Scholar in the Arts Candidate, as part of the 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students who exemplify academic and artistic excellence. He has advanced to semi-finalist for the Presidential Scholar in the Arts announced on April 19.
Changyou's Journey premiered internationally at the 2018 Toronto International Kids Film Festival (TIFF Kids, March 9-18, 2018), one of the top international film festivals worldwide. It was enthusiastically received by festival audience and organizers. The film has since been accepted in official selections of nine additional international film festivals including Sarasota Film Festival, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (May 5, 11 a.m.), Newport Beach Film Festival (April 29, noon), Arizona International Film Festival, and International Children’s Film Festival in Istanbul, Turkey.
Chen’s hometown donors and audience can look forward to a Memorial Weekend Special VIP Screening and Discussion with the teen director and his producer mother on Saturday, May 26, at 3 p.m. at After School Learning Tree.