Dunn School students are stepping up in a countless ways to bring honor to themselves and their institution.

Click to enlarge image

Three students in particular are standouts. Wyatt Krutsh for two years running has had a screenplay he wrote, produced by other students, take top honors at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. Carolyn Dorwin was awarded an Honorable Mention for her drawing titled “Enthusiast” by the CA Region of The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. And, Morgan Sinclaire qualified to participate in the American Invitational Mathematics Examination.

But they aren’t the only Dunn students who are excelling beyond classroom academics. Ten students spent a recent school break building houses for two impoverished families in Guatemala said Sherrie Petersen, of Dunn.

Eight more students elected to spend their time providing community service rather than playing a sport. Three volunteered to tutor younger classmates at Homework Heaven at the Middle School.

Led by Vicki Vachon, the other five students lent a hand at Atterdag Village, Friendship House and the Therapeutic Riding Program in Santa Ynez. Wednesday afternoons were spent at Jodi House, a support center for people with brain injuries. They even took time to groom, pet and pick up poop at Seein’ Spots, the miniature donkey farm in Ballard.

But the three standout students took what they learned in the classroom and pushed it beyond usual boundaries. Wyatt, the writer, looks every bit the part, relaxed and very much at ease in his camel blazer. Twice his films were honored at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, only the praise he personally received wasn’t quite as grand.

He shrugs. The junior has no plans to stop writing or to stop competing. It’s only a matter of time. He was just elected prefect by his peers, so that is nice, he said, aware of his abilities but not cocky about them.

The way the annual 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competition goes is this: 10 student screenwriters are paired with 10 student directors hailing from the region’s schools and colleges, and required to produce a 10-minute short film in 10 days, explained Petersen.

“This year we gave writers the assignment to produce a comedy, and these are 10 of the best scripts we’ve ever gotten in the nine years we’ve had the competition,” said Mike Stinson, co-director of the contest. Just like last year, Wyatt’s script was one of the best and chosen to be made into a film.

Last year his script was brought to life by Santa Barbara High School student Tate Larrick. Although Wyatt did not win first place for his screenplay, Larrick’s film went on to win the top prize for student films. This year’s entry was paired with Aaron Dalton and once again, though Wyatt didn’t win first place, the movie made from his script did.

His first film, titled “Monarch,” is the story of estranged friends who undertake a road trip during which they rekindle their camaraderie, said Wyatt. His second, “Family Weekend,” centers on a college student returning home to his dysfunctional family only to learn he is adopted. Neither film, he added, draws on personal experience. The personal experience he is aiming for is a summer writing program at Tisch School of the Arts.

Sophomore Carolyn is pretty fond of the arts herself, though she isn’t positive she is moving toward the field professionally. Instead, she is leaning toward teaching, she said – inspired by mentors like her art teacher Nancy Yaki. It was Yaki’s self-portrait assignment that inspired Carolyn to create the piece that won her the Honorable Mention at CA Region of The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

Carolyn was excited by the opportunity to use color pencil, a nod to her childhood if you will, she explained. But unlike childhood days, students used photos for reference and were challenged to incorporate their personality into the work to make it eye-catching. “It was a really good assignment.” Students were also required to integrate perspective, she said, which she did by the use of foreshortening in the image of her leaping in the air.

But fellow student Morgan isn’t leaping anywhere. The senior has a sedate and reasoned approach to life, and finds himself baffled by the idea someone would find his accomplishment noteworthy. Leaning forward slightly and making assured eye contact, he explained that doing math well is something he works hard at, so that he does well should come as no surprise.

“One of his first words was octagon,” his mom, Cheryl Czyz Sinclaire, reports. And while Morgan has always loved math, he also loves biology and thus is thinking about doing a double major.

At the suggestion of his teacher, Helena Avery, Morgan and several fellow students participated in the American Mathematics Competition’s 12A contest in February. Heather Chu, Maggie Jiang, Hayoun Moon, Ji Youn Moon and Janet Yu all successfully completed the exam. But Morgan was the only Dunn student to score in the top 5% of all AMC 12 tests – nationally about 200,000 participants, Morgan believes – and therefore qualify to participate in the American Invitational Mathematics Examination.

Despite the honor, Morgan isn’t planning on taking the test. He doesn’t need the accolades; besides, it would be too late to put on his college applications. He has better things to do.

“I don’t goof off a lot,” he admitted. Some things never change.

“When he was 5, we wanted him to learn to ski, but Morgan asked if he could study French instead,” said Sinclair. “Morgan has always been a handful academically. Even though he has intellectual parents, we couldn’t keep up, and thought the best plan was to send Morgan to Dunn.” It is a good place for high achievers.

Two other of those Dunn achievers were recognized recently by Rotary International – receiving the Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) after being selected for the honor by the Los Olivos Rotary Club. The students are Carolyn and Alexandra Jones who will receive an all-expenses paid four-day weekend at the RYLA camp in Ojai from April 19-22.

Serving the community is an idea practiced campus-wide. Including the middle school, Dunn raised more than $1,600 for Pennies for Patients, said Petersen. But it isn’t just the community service that has her so proud of Dunn students.

So far seniors – still waiting to hear from most schools – received 68 acceptances to colleges and universities (including Northeastern University) and have been awarded $392,000 in merit scholarships to date. She is certain there are more good things to come.

struax@syvjournal.com