August 31, 2012
Niki Acton, a first-year Knox College student, has long been fascinated with creative writing.
It's what drew the Grandville, Michigan, native to Interlochen Arts Academy, the high school from which she graduated a few months ago.
It's also what led to her selection to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which recognizes the nation's top-performing students in academics and the arts. Only 141 high school seniors were awarded the honor this year. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars chooses the scholars based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, and evidence of community service and leadership.
"I'm still a little in shock from the whole thing," said Acton.
She and other Presidential Scholars received an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where they met with government officials, toured the White House, and attended a medallion ceremony. The writers in the group, including Acton, presented a reading at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and excerpts of their work were displayed in one of the museum's galleries.
Acton has an extensive writing background. She was editor of her high school's literary journal, The Interlochen Review, and the high school newspaper, The Blue Collar. In December, she will take on new responsibilities as "dramatic script correspondent" for the Adroit Journal, a publication run by high school students and college undergraduates.
"When it comes to writing, I was always interested in fiction," she said, "but when I started playwriting and had a couple of plays produced, I became very interested in theatre as well."
Two of her plays, Lockdown and The Art of Losing, were selected for the Blank Theatre Company's Young Playwrights Competition & Festival in 2011 and 2012, respectively. About a dozen plays are chosen each summer to be produced professionally by the Blank Theatre Company at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo above: Niki Acton, second from left, with the cast from The Art of Losing, a play she wrote that was produced this year by the Blank Theatre Company. Shown are, from left, actors Jill Larson, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Melissa Claire Egan, and director Loni Peristere.)
Action, who wants to pursue a double-major in creative writing and theatre, said she chose to attend Knox because of the close interaction between students and faculty.
"Coming from a school where I had writing workshops with as few as five other students, and (where) my teachers encouraged us to come in for multiple tutorials for our pieces, I knew that having that type of individualized attention would be very important to me in college," she said. "Knox was one of the few schools where I felt that I would have that same close relationship with my instructors."
Even though she hasn't yet begun her studies at Knox, Acton already is becoming involved with campus life. She will serve as assistant stage manager for At Night's End, the Department of Theatre's mainstage production for fall term.
"I'm incredibly excited to arrive on campus and start classes," she said. "I'm particularly excited to be a part of At Night's End, and of course, to get to know the people I'll be spending the next four years with."