South High senior Molly Hensley Clancy has been awarded a $10,000 Davidson Institute Fellows Scholarship for authoring a series of stories told through the eyes of young female characters who show that common bonds bring us all together as human beings.
Among the 20 students nationwide named as 2008 Davidson Fellows, Hensley-Clancy received her award at a ceremony held on Sept. 24 at the Library of Congress. While in Washington, she and another Davidson Fellows Scholarship winner from Minnesota, Edina High School senior Michael Cherkassky, met with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobucher and the office of Sen. Norm Coleman, Reps. Jim Ramstad and Keith Ellison and the House Committee on Education and Labor to discuss challenges faced by gifted students.
Founded in 1999 by a California couple who had owned an educational software company, the Davidson Fellows Scholarship each year awards $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 scholarships to those under the age of 18 who have completed a significant piece of work. These students score in the 99th percentile on IQ and achievement tests.
Application categories for the scholarships include mathematics, science, literature, music, technology, philosophy and outside the box. Among this year’s group of $10,000 scholarship winners is a 17-year-old boy who created a mathematical model to calculate the minimum number of vaccines needed to stop a measles outbreak and a 16-year-old girl whose work shows that blocking a certain gene can eventually lead to more effective breast cancer treatment.
“I was very excited to meet this group of kids,” said Hensley-Clancy, who turned 17 in the middle of September. “It’s an honor for my work to be included with such accomplishments,” she said.
South High English teacher Corinth Matera helped prepare Hensley-Clancy’s application, a portfolio of some 65 pages called “Seized as Beauty” in which the young writer “demonstrates that geographic and linguistic differences do not change the universality of dreams, thoughts and troubles. She believes the more we notice the commonalities that bind us together as human beings, rather than what sets us apart, the less we will be able to ignore those who are suffering among us,” according to the Davidson Institute.
Hensley-Clancy says she writes best at night when her thoughts can gel and she can imagine a starting place, usually a geographic spot that serves as a jumping off point for a story, a place deeply connected to her own experience.
“It’s hard because these things are intensely personal,” said Hensley-Clancy. “But I’ve always written, so the process is easy for me,” she said.
Hensley-Clancy began with telling stories to her mother about fantasy worlds and illustrating them with crayons. She began to write in earnest when she got a computer at age 7, completing her first novel two years later, and a second at age 13. Since then, she has been experimenting with shorter fiction, including magical realism and historical fiction.
Among her influences she names the Bronte sisters and 19th-century author Laura Ingalls Wilder, whom she says helped shape her approach to writing about personal issues.
“She has a lot to do with who I am today,” said Hensley-Clancy.
Other awards and honors she has received include a 2008 National Silver Award for personal essay, scholastic art and writing; a Minnesota High School Press All-State Silver award; a 2006 Minnesota Labor History prize; and places in three different years for National History Day competition.
In addition to writing, Hensley-Clancy’s other love is the Spanish language. She began studying Spanish in seventh grade and has since skipped three years of study, taking the AP Spanish Test as a sophomore. As a high school junior, she took a high level Spanish oral expression class at Macalester College in St. Paul, and during her senior year is taking an introductory course to analyzing Hispanic texts, along with creative writing. She has also taken college-level writing and modern literature courses at the University of Minnesota.
She is an accomplished soccer player, serving as captain of her soccer club while playing on South High’s varsity team, and is the executive editor of the school’s newspaper, The Southerner.
Hensley-Clancy has applied to Yale, but says she wouldn’t mind attending the University of Minnesota or Macalester College where she will study English or comparative literature in preparation for a career as a novelist.
“I guess I’ll use the $10,000 for books,” said Hensley-Clancy.