Diocesan News

It’s All in the ‘Fine Print’ for Holy Family Student

Philip Saffian (center), a second-grader at Holy Family Catholic Academy, is this year’s Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest elementary school champion.

Philip Saffian, a second-grader at Holy Family Catholic Academy, Fresh Meadows, has the “write” stuff.

The 8-year-old was chosen as the national elementary school champion in this year’s Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. He won for best print entry among all second-grade entries nationwide.

“Handwriting makes me happy. I write cards for holidays a lot. I like to write with a pen over a pencil, because I don’t have to erase,” Philip told The Tablet. “I’m excited that I won.”

Christian Standerwick, a sales rep from Zaner-Bloser, an Ohio-based educational publishing company, presented the award to Philip at a ceremony at Holy Family on June 14.

“You’re never too young to learn handwriting — it’s not passé. The research has shown that when you write the letter, there’s a connection between your pen and your brain, and it helps you read better, learn better, spell better, speak better and listen better,” Standerwick said. “We form real connections — it only takes 15 minutes a day to form your child into better readers and writers.”

Students in kindergarten through second grade compete in the manuscript (print) category, while students in grades three through eight compete in the cursive category. All students must write, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” a sentence that contains every letter of the alphabet. Judges select winners based on shape, size, spacing and slant.

Philip Saffian’s entry for the 2019 National Handwriting Contest. (Courtesy: Zaner-Bloser)

Participating schools held their own handwriting competitions and selected grade-level winners. The grade-level winners advanced to state competitions, where judges selected a public and private grade-level winner, according to a Zaner-Bloser press release. From there, judges selected 18 national grade-level semifinalists. The top nine were named the national grade-level champions. Overall, 250,000 students compete in the contest nationwide.

Each grand national grade-level champion earns a trophy, a $500 check and educational materials for their school, valued at $500.

In the audience at the ceremony were Philip’s proud parents, John and Annette Saffian, and most of his siblings, all of whom are Holy Family alumni.

Philip Saffian with his siblings Magdalen, Walter, Justin, and Antoinette (missing: Lydia Saffian). (Courtesy: John Saffian)


The Saffian family: Annette, John, and Philip. (Courtesy: John Saffian)

“I just want Philip to keep that skill of always producing excellence, and putting his best foot forward in whatever he’s doing; that’s the lesson we hope he comes away with,” said his father, John. “He wants excellence, not acknowledgment, and he always cares about getting things done right … or write. It’s just a part of his personality, and I’m really proud of how he presents himself at such a young age.”

Holy Family Principal Mary Scheer is thrilled about the honor.

“We all recognize the achievements of others, and it’s very special for one of our students to get this national recognition,” Scheer said. “Handwriting and penmanship in itself is such a needed skill. It’s a dying art, an education tool and a mastercraft, the way that we write. And it’s also is a way of having individuality in a texting, electronic world.”

“We’re happy for Philip, and very proud of him,” said his mother, Annette Saffian, who used to be a reporter for The Tablet. “We like that the Catholic schools really helps kids to use their own individual talents, not in a selfish way, but in a way to do some good and to be good people.”