FITCHBURG — The Fitchburg Cultural Alliance recently announced the winners of the Janet Cragin Youth Arts Awards, an annual tradition done in collaboration with the late longtime and beloved city educator and performer’s daughter Sally Cragin as a way to carry on her mother’s legacy.
According to a press release, 18 city middle school students were selected to be award recipients by their music, art, and drama teachers.
Longsjo Middle School students William Barnor, Guillermo Escobar Pujois, Atera Mbunwe, Dax Richard, Barbara Gonzalez-Lopez, and Lila Perez; Memorial Middle School students Adrianna Benson, Lilliana Peterson, Kairi McManus, Yirianny Polanco-Aguilera, Cassandra LeBlanc, and Nuria Aifaro, and Jamayra Beltran; and Gavyn Guercio, Trent Rozell, Ariel Alden, Pierce ‘Chaos’ Burgess and Nalyce Texeira-Cruz from Sizer School are this year’s honorees.
The students were given medals at Main Street Studios in May and awarded Mayoral Citations at this week’s Fitchburg School Committee meeting. The awards and an arts swag bag filled with treats and a plant in memory of Janet Cragin were given to the students by Fitchburg Cultural Alliance Director Jessie Olson and Sally Cragin, a city councilor who is also the chair of Stratton Players.
“My mom had a special place in her heart for middle school students because they are literally in between childhood and their teen years,” Sally Cragin reflected about her mom in the press release. “She was very proud to be honored by having this award in her name and more proud that Fitchburg, her home city, honored students who excelled in the arts — which don’t get the kind of acknowledgement that athletic or academic achievement does.”
Janet Cragin grew up in Fitchburg and attended local schools before attending the American Academy of Drama in New York City in 1952. She returned to the area and began her teaching career at Richardson Road Elementary School before she was asked to work in the new kindergarten class at Applewild School in Fitchburg, where she spent her career teaching young children and teaching drama and was active in the arts as a talented performer.