Meet the 2017 Nota Bene Winner

Steven E. Rauscher, a former student at the Community College of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, has received the 2017 Ewing Citation Award for his Nota Bene entry, “Can They Tell?” and a $1,000 scholarship.

He joins 23 other Phi Theta Kappa members whose works will be published in the 2017 issue of Nota Bene this winter. Four others will receive $500 scholarships for submitting outstanding entries:

  • Imelda Socorro Ruiz of the College of Southern Nevada for her poem “Grannie Dress”
  • Rebecca Watters of Seminole State College in Florida for her short story “Prologue: Aurelia by the Sea”
  • Joshua Gray of Metropolitan Community College in Missouri for his short story “Firewater”
  • Maria Isabel Medina de Sklavenitis of Southwestern College in California for her poem “Olvido”

See the full list of those being published. Nearly 650 entries were submitted.

Steven is now attending Temple University. His personal essay explores the “un-Americanness” of today’s America through his own family heritage: his father’s ancestor signed the Declaration of Independence, and his maternal grandfather was an Iraqi immigrant whose untimely death was rumored to be tied to Saddam Hussein.

Get to know Steven in this brief Q&A.

PTK: How long have you been writing?

Steven Rauscher: I’ve loved writing since I was very young. The earliest piece I can remember specifically was a short (read: very short) story I wrote for Halloween back in second grade. My Catholic school teacher lauded my descriptive writing, cautioned my sense of morbidity, and ultimately docked points for my misspelling the word “blood.”

Although I liked to remind myself that writing was an enjoyed pastime throughout high school and my first attempt at a bachelor’s degree at Rowan University, I didn’t really pursue the art with any conviction until I came to terms with its therapeutic value after I dropped out in 2008. I had a lot of things to sort out mentally, and the written word helped me immensely in that regard.

Since then, whether it’s been fiction or non, personal or public, writing has been the force that’s motivated me to go back to school and reminded me of something I’m pretty okay at when the whole going-back-to-school thing gets tough.

PTK: Why did you submit an entry to Nota Bene?

SR: Aside from the obvious appeal of any kind of scholarship for a 30-something year old with a mortgage to chisel away at and a full load of classes to attend, I really wanted a platform.

For several years now, I’ve watched the world change around me and said relatively little about it, outside of my group of close friends and those I’ve deemed worthy of reading random rants on Facebook. A competition like Nota Bene gave me exactly the motivation I needed to put something together for a larger audience, and I’m legitimately excited to see what conversations come back to me as a result of this.

PTK: What does it mean to you to have the top entry this year?

SR: To be honest, just reading this question gives me butterflies in my stomach all over again. Did I really win? Really?

When it comes down to it, this is affirmation for me. Though I really do enjoy writing and forcing people to read things that I create, I’m typically my own worst enemy. I don’t generally think the things I write are worth anyone’s time, so I tend to keep them to myself.

It’s particularly validating to know that an international honor society thinks my writing is worthwhile. It’s going to be pretty hard to convince myself that I’m terrible after this.

PTK: What are your future career plans?

SR: As far back as my teenage years, I “knew” that I wanted to be a high school history teacher. I wanted to spend all day talking about a subject I loved, I wanted to make my students labor over dioramas of World War I battles, and I wanted to do so in a tweed jacket with elbow patches. You know, the works.

But something about coming back to the academic world as an older student has me thinking beyond the classroom in terms of the potential impact a career in education can have. While I’m currently pursuing a dual major in secondary education and history (with a minor in global studies) at Temple University, I’m thinking very critically about what comes afterward. I am absolutely going to begin my career as a high school history teacher, but I’m finding myself interested in pursuing graduate work in the area of educational policy.

I believe very strongly in the notion of school as community, and I believe that the act of establishing schools as learning communities in which the opportunity, achievement, and emotional needs of all are attended to is paramount to the health of our democracy. It’s something I’m very invested in, and I’d like to work toward making it viable and available for all American students.

PTK: How will you use your scholarship?

SR: Well, school is expensive. I’m staring down the barrel of a 15-year, 200-plus-credit bachelor’s degree that I’ll finally complete in 2020. Every little bit helps, so I’ll absolutely be putting this scholarship toward my tuition.

PTK: Anything else we should know about you?

SR: I’m engaged! My fiancée and I are set to be married in the spring of 2019, and we actually got engaged on my community college class trip to New York this past May. I may or may not have had a little extra help from a professor/Phi Theta Kappa advisor of mine in establishing the right setting, and for that I may or may not be forever grateful.

We are now accepting submissions for the 2018 Nota Bene competition. All entries must be submitted online.

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