Congratulations to the 2019 NYC Scholastic Awards Participants!

Dear NYC Scholastic Awards Community,

Thank you for participating in the 2019 NYC Regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. We received nearly 13,000 submissions this year from teens across New York City. The 2019 NYC Scholastic Awards Art and Writing Adjudications were organized and presented in partnership with The New School.

Jurors gathered at The New School to consider visual and written works from creative teens across the five boroughs. All submissions were adjudicated blindly so that jurors did not see information that would identify the work’s creator, like the student’s name, gender, or school. Jurors evaluated submissions based on three criteria: originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal voice or vision.

Our deepest gratitude goes to the 110 educators, artists, curators, writers, and editors who offered their time to participate as jurors and recognize the work and talent of NYC’s creative teens. We also thank The New School for hosting us and the moderators for helping run the art adjudications process. Joining us as moderators were Kelli Atkins, Andrea Cyrille, Jacqueline Johnson, Lawson Marlowe, Dania Martinez, Ari Panagis, Jacqueline Tsang, and Claire Velazquez-Trovato.

For both writing and art, we asked our jurors to share the common themes explored by NYC teens. We also asked them for tips that teens can use to improve their next art or writing project in preparation for next year’s Awards.


We asked our 59 writing jurors about the common themes explored by NYC teens in their writing and what advice they would give these young writers. Please click HERE to view a complete list of the 2019 NYC Scholastic Awards Writing Jurors.

While reviewing the submissions, what emergent themes did you observe?

Immigration: Cultural assimilation versus cultural preservation, cultural belonging, and deciding to identify with their religious/cultural background after previously rejecting it.

Race and Class: Race and identity politics, poverty, privilege, and concerns about justice.

Alienation: Frustration (both with the current state of the world and one’s place in it as an adolescent), uncertainty about the future, solitude, and identity (self-identity & identity in relation to their community).

Mental health: Depression and self-harm.

Gender and sexuality: Gender disparities, concerns about gender identity, young love, and navigating sexuality.

Trauma, grief, and loss: Domestic abuse, death, death of grandparents, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gun violence.

Politics: Increased awareness and concern of political matters compared to previous years.

Family: Relations to siblings and pressure from parents to be successful.

What advice would you give to students and their educators who are preparing to submit to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards? What can students do to make their work stand out in the judging process?

Have a friend or relative proofread your submission. This will help in catching typos, getting feedback on your ideas, and understanding how well you communicate these ideas to your audience.

Express your own ideas. Many critical essays rephrased information that can be found in existing summaries of books rather than offering the student’s personal reaction to the work. Write beyond what is required for school. Be creative! Write something you’ve never seen before, and don’t recycle characters or plots from other writers. Think about the stories you would like to read, not the stories you have read, and create an emotional pull for the reader to keep reading.

Be specific. Make sure you limit the topic you talk about so that you have the time and space to address it well and clearly. You can always write another story or poem!

Have a good title and make your opening sentences compelling. This will make sure your audience is engaged from the start. Think about the characters and their lives, and be intentional about the window of time you choose to highlight in your story—it’s often best to start in the middle of the action.

Write multiple drafts of your work and read the work aloud. Both strategies will help you catch typos and see if the writing is compelling.

Write to understand, not to “be right.” Show, don’t tell. One purpose of writing is the discovery of your own voice. Authors should show a story’s themes through events, character interactions, and descriptions rather than state them as commentary in the introduction or conclusion. In other words, authors shouldn’t state what they’ve learned; they should make their audience learn it and feel it too, as their pieces unfold. If you aren’t surprised by something in your story or poem through the process of writing it, neither will your reader.

Use simple language. A strong narrative voice is much more important than using fancy words. Words learned for use in academic papers and reports can be jarring in fiction or memoir and hurt the author’s attempt to develop a genuine voice.

If you are writing outside of your experience, do your research.

Read the work of classic and contemporary writers in your genre.

Our Writing Jurors in Action HERE.



Our 51 art jurors also noted the recurring themes in student work and offered tips that students can apply to their future artworks. Please click HERE to view a complete list of the 2019 NYC Scholastic Awards Art Jurors.

While reviewing the submissions, what emergent themes did you observe?

Common concepts

Social justice: Protest and social movements, feminism, oppression, and ways to break through oppression.

Identity: Race, queerness, gender, and culture.

American politics


Mental health: Suicide, bullying, and depression.

Consumer culture

Immigration and diaspora

The environment




Common imagery and techniques

 Visual references to the photojournalism of protest

Landscape photography of nature and cities

Images that reflect familiarity with the styles of some famous photographers

Portraits, both of self and others

Pointillism, one-line drawing, still life

Films that incorporated stylistic elements common in music videos

Animal drawings

Fantastical subjects

In fashion, garments inspired by garments from the past

In sculpture, hands and faces

Birds flying

Science-fiction aesthetics

What advice would you give to students and their educators who are preparing to submit to the Scholastic Awards? What can students do to make their work stand out in the judging process?

Finish your work before submitting it. The use of half-completed works needs to be intentional and in the service of expressing or reinforcing the message of the work, versus doing it for aesthetic purposes.

Express your individual viewpoint or perspective. We want to get a sense of the artist’s unique voice—technically strong work without creativity does not stand out. Think about what you want to say through your art practice about who you are and how you see the world. Avoid submitting what are clearly classroom projects, especially still-life images, unless the work has an original/unusual viewpoint. If submitting work with a political statement, think about how you can express your unique perspective or how you can express a larger perspective in a new and unique way. Art is transformative, it not just mirrors reality but seeks to communicate ideas.

Think about how you crop or frame your subject. For photography, eliminate clutter at the edges and pay attention to reflections of the photographer within the image—either eliminate them or be deliberate about them.

Make sure there is a focal point in your work. This is especially true for photography.

Check the category descriptions to make sure you choose the one that best describes your work.

Take clear and high-quality photographs of your art. Photographs that are poorly lit or at odd angles can make it difficult for the jurors to properly evaluate the work, so make sure there is good lighting and no distractions in the background. The image of the work should be cropped to the dimensions of the work itself. Scan or photograph your work as clearly as possible. If it is 3D, show as many angles as possible.

Portfolios should be visually and conceptually consistent. When submitting a portfolio, students should think about how the pieces relate as a cohesive whole. Jurors looked for bodies of work and how images went together visually. Some really strong portfolios had one or two pieces that really didn’t belong. After curating your work, show a friend or teacher and ask them if there are any outliers.

Avoid common subjects in photography. Don’t submit photos of your pet. Snapshots or travel photos, no matter how tastefully executed, are not engaging. An expensive camera does not guarantee a golden photo. Concepts carry the image further then pretty subjects.

See Some of Our Art Jurors in Action

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The NYC Scholastic Awards thanks all jurors who provided these insightful and valuable reflections on this year’s submissions. We hope that students and educators find these comments helpful as they prepare for the 2020 Scholastic Awards.

This Year’s Recipients

In the meantime, the results of the 2019 NYC Scholastic Awards are in! Congratulations to all Award recipients!

 ** Gold Key works are automatically advanced to the national round of adjudications, where they will have the opportunity to be awarded a Silver or Gold Medal. The list of 2019 National Silver and Gold Medalists will be published on the website on March 13, National Notification Day.

***All certificates are available digitally. They must be downloaded by September 1, 2019. They will not be available after that date.

****Student and educator names appear exactly as they were entered into ORS. Scholastic Awards staff will NOT accommodate requests to edit spelling, capitalization, etc. Certificates of Achievement will bear students’ names exactly as they are listed in ORS. Scholastic Awards staff will NOT accommodate requests for edits.

*****Silver and Gold Key recipients must attend the award ceremony on Sunday, March 24 at The New School to  receive their pin(s). Likewise, American Visions and Voices nominees must attend the award ceremony on Sunday, March 24 to receive their American Visions/Voices seals.

2019 NYC Writing Award Recipient List

2019 NYC Writing Award Congratulatory Letters

2019 NYC Writing Award Certificates (Abraham-Inouye)

2019 NYC Writing Award Certificates (Isko-Salvage)

2019 NYC Writing Award Certificates (Samuels-Zyada)

2019 NYC Art Award Recipient List

2019 NYC Art Award Congratulatory Letters

2019 NYC Art Award Certificates (Abad-Fann)

2019 NYC Art Award Certificates (Feldman-Li)

2019 NYC Art Award Certificates (Lin-Simonson)

2019 NYC Art Award Certificates (Simotas-Zwick)

And last but not least, congratulations to the two art educators who have been selected to receive $75 Blick gift cards! We admire your support of creative teens and hope that you continue to encourage your students to participate in the Scholastic Awards.

Gayle Asch, Bronx High School of Science

Lara Hill, Brooklyn High School of the Arts

Well done! We hope to see you on Sunday, March 24 at the NYC Art Award Ceremony.

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