PLAINFIELD, NJ - Kayla Shipley-Willis, a ninth grader at PAAAS in Plainfield, was named 2017 Gold Medalist for Short Story Writing by the NAACP ACT-SO at its 28thAnnual Competition Awards held at Rutgers University in New Brunswick on April 9, 2017.

Ms. Shipley-Willis competed in the Humanities/Short Story Category of the annual NAACP competition which included presenting a brief examination of a subject in prose, expressing a personal view or interpretation of a subject or topic. She won with her short story, “Illness,” a suspense story about a sister who tries to find out why her younger brother committed suicide shortly after escaping from a mental institution.

The ACT-SO is a major youth initiative of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that provides young students the opportunity to demonstrate their outstanding performance in the academic, artistic, and scientific fields.  The students can select up to three competitions from a total of 29 offerings.  If the student excels at the state level, they are then able to compete nationally in their category. Ms. Shipley-Willis will be competing nationally in her category in July.

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"I was overjoyed when I heard her name called. I cried tears of joy, because I know how hard she worked on her story," said Kayla’s mother Ms. Lekeya Shipley. 

For her part, Ms. Willis-Shipley said, “I was so surprised to win because there were much older writers than me and with much more experience. I could not believe it.”

The multi-talented Ms. Shipley-Willis also performs Shakespearean monologues and dances with the STARS Performing Arts Dance School of Hillside, NJ.  She has won scholarships for her dancing and she will be competing at the Apollo this summer with her dance group M.A.D.E.

Ms. Shipley-Willis credits her mentors Ms. Vanera Aponte and Ms. Anna Perez, her dance and writing advisors, for inspiring her to achieve.