For DonorsFor Applicants

Doan Foundation Arts Scholarship

1st winner$1,000
2nd winner$1,000
3rd winner$1,000
4th winner$1,000
Application Deadline
Mar 1, 2024
Winners Announced
Apr 1, 2024
Education Level
High School
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Education Level:
High school senior
2.5 or higher
Financial Status:
Field of Study:

Society often views creative careers as inferior to traditional jobs and deems art careers irrelevant in the workforce. 

However, art - whether it be music, dance, fashion, design, theater, or anything else - is a vital part of our world. Due to the stigma around art careers, it takes courage and confidence to pursue them, especially for students from low-income backgrounds.

This scholarship aims to support marginalized teens in California who are pursuing careers in the arts so they have the resources they need to achieve their dreams.

Any low-income high school senior in California who has at least a 2.5 GPA and is pursuing the arts may apply for this scholarship.

To apply, tell us how the arts have affected your life, if there were any challenges you had to overcome, and If so, how you over came them. Optionally, you can add pieces of art you've created that you are proud of.

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Need, Boldest Profile
Published July 5, 2023
Essay Topic

How have the arts affected your life? Were there any challenges you had to overcome? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

400–600 words

Winners and Finalists

Winning Applications

Jennifer Franco
Eastside College Preparatory SchoolEast Palo Alto, CA
From what I recall, ever since I was 4, I liked drawing and painting over any other activity and growing up, I always took school electives involved in the arts. I have taken ceramics, advanced art, and digital illustration all leading up to high school as well. But initially, I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue when I was in middle school, my family constantly pestered me with questions about what I wanted to do with my life, I was only 13, and I knew I wanted to do something involving art, but my family wanted a lawyer, a doctor, or someone who would guarantee economic stability and success. My family saw art as a joke, as a Latina growing up in a Latin household, art was, in their terms, “not going to bring you success.” During that time, I polluted my mind thinking maybe I shouldn’t do art, give up my dreams, and listen to my family. Back then I didn’t know how to respond and today I don’t respond at all due to fear of misjudgment and them not understanding that art is growing and becoming more successful than ever before. Today, I am more confident than ever, it is because of my contribution in high school that I am more confident than ever before! In my sophomore year, I took digital illustration, and through this class, I learned how to draw with a stylus and on an iPad, I have been so used to paper and paint, that this opened new doors for me without even realizing it. Eventually Junior year, I participated in my school's sticker design prom fundraiser. Eventually, my teacher, who was in charge of the fundraiser, contacted me and told me that she loved my designs and wanted me to make more. I gladly accepted and I became a part of the prom committee for some time. This experience exposed me to something I never would have imagined doing. During the process of my designs, I discovered graphic design through that same teacher who included me in the prom committee. I did some research, and that opened my eyes to a different level of design. I have never been so passionate about anything in my life. I thought to myself, this could be it, this is where I am meant to be. I knew that this was what I wanted to do because of my work for the past 4 months I volunteered to design stickers. My state of mind has thus solidified, and I was able to confront my family, saying loud and proud, I know what I want to do, I want to be a graphic designer! I have come so far and built my skills, no longer that lost 13-year-old girl doubting her ability to pursue an art career. My mind is made up and I won’t let anyone change that, I won’t let others make me believe something I am not. I look forward to college, and I hope to get into the school of my dreams to continue this path. However, through this process, I couldn’t do it all alone. I am grateful to the teacher who supported me along the way, and I am grateful to my favorite musical artist whom I looked up to and who has inspired some of my artwork. Especially the people who purchased my designs, I am forever so grateful to see those smiles, and I hope to make others around me happy and inspired through my art.
Dejanelle Zapot Chagala
Chaparral High School (Temecula)TEMECULA, CA
Growing up I always loved to draw; I drew on anything I could get my hands on although my mom wasn’t too happy when she saw Crayola markers all over the walls and my siblings' faces. My mom still encouraged me to continue drawing but rather on a sketchbook. As I got older I continued to use sketchbooks to express myself and to practice my drawing skills since I still lacked in many areas. Once I got to high school I decided to take art seriously that was where I discovered that my practice does pay off after drawing a realistic still life. I would create still lifes with character figures so the composition was interesting and this led to a newfound love for drawing things that I see. Most of the pieces I made during my years in high school are of these figures or my cello since I like seeing my improvement over the years. Seeing my skills improve left me wanting to do better and continue practicing realism. I first started only using graphite but then moved to using charcoal which was full of texture and made my drawing have more depth. I kept experimenting with new techniques and mediums after trying them out they would leave me with excitement about what I could do with them next. I would create self-portraits every school year to see my improvement each year. Painting was something I found challenging for me ever since the first I tried it in 7th grade. I decided to continue to build up my drawing skills for a while longer before I try to paint again. In high school was the next time I painted and all my hard work paid off. I realized that skill translates between mediums since drawing is the foundation of art making. Although I have been on the verge of giving up I always remember that there is failure just means that there is an opportunity to improve and it will always end in an improvement to the skills I have been cultivating throughout my life. I am someone who hasn't been able to experience actual love for something until I was in my third year of high school. I realized that art was the only thing making me happy even with all the obstacles I have gone through. I have been struggling with depression leading me to slowly loss the will to live but art was the only thing that has been a light to get me through it. I have started taking medication for it and I feel a lot better.
Tania Lopez
Ramon C. Cortines School Of Visual And Performing ArtsLos Angeles, CA
Coming from a Mexican immigrant household, creativity was seen as a waste of time. When my parents and older family members asked what I planned to do in the future I would respond with “teacher” or “nurse” to meet their expectations of success, knowing the real answer was “Artist.” I think my love for art first developed with my admiration for murals from my neighborhood in East Los Angeles. Particularly, “Inner Resources”, a mural painted in my local park depicting the history of Latin american people and culture. I would stand staring at it in awe as a kid; the mural spread across a series of intricately drawn symbolic images that meld into one another, all to celebrate our community’s cultural pride. I believe this is when my unspoken dream to become a painter was cemented. During high school I immersed myself in art through every way I could; I won scholarships to attend art programs free of cost such as Otis Summer of Art, led the Visual Arts Club of my High School, and took AP studio Art. For my AP drawing class, I made pieces centered around the rich culture of East Los Angeles and chose to paint Matilda, a family friend and Mexican snack vendor who sells in my neighborhood street for my piece “La Nievera.” Yet the more I created, the more disapproval I received. My family members encouraged me to stop spending so much time making art. “Los dibujos no pagan ni la renta ni los billes,” (Drawings don't pay rent or bills) my mom would say to me. Despite basing much of art around my culture, I felt alienated from it. The judgment I received from my family for wanting to pursue a “white person career” made me feel like I was somehow less Mexican. When my painting was posted on my school’s social media website, I was recruited by the local Eastern Projects Gallery to exhibit two of my artworks in their “Blossom” Chicana Women Artists Group Exhibition. I was suddenly surrounded by a group of successful Latina artists and learned from them that art was in fact an option for me. I was able to sell my art to none other than Paul Botello, the muralist of “Inner Resources.” Meeting Mr, Botello, the artist I had long admired, inspired me as he expressed he believed I would thrive as an artist and acknowledged my work. My family has begun to be interested in what I make and even ask me to draw things for them. While they are worried that I have applied to study Illustration in college, they no longer express discontent towards art. “Si de veras mucho quieres esto, tienes que echarle muchas ganas” (if this is really something you want, you're gonna have to give it your all) is what my mom has recently started saying. Although it isn’t a passion that is encouraged in many families, art is a human practice and I believe it's time for people like me to be allowed to love art. Convincing my parents to allow me to apply to art school was a long process, with years of proving my dedication to what I love, and though I will only be able to attend if I receive a lot of financial aid and scholarships, I am willing to work for it. I want to show my parents that I can succeed in what I have set out to do and show them that it is possible for someone like their daughter to do what she loves for a living.
Chloe Baik
Cypress High SchoolCYPRESS, CA
From a young age, I was an avid reader, taking virtually any moment of free time to read whatever new book I had just bought from the thrift store. The words leapt off from the pages creating vivid images in my head that only I could see. When asked by my teachers or parents if I enjoyed my book, I could hardly describe my love for the story to them, unable to communicate the colors and movements the book invoked. While reading, I wouldn’t envision the scenario that the author had written for me, instead, stories were full of what seemed like meaningless shapes. Each letter and number had its own color, and as I would read, these colors would swirl together in a nonsensical dance of swirling and swaying, but explaining this to people was frustrating. Making sense of the fact that the letter U was a bright yellow color, or that the word “immediately” was a sharp green that turned red was utter nonsense to anyone curious. My inability to get others to understand what I could so clearly see caused distress in my young, irrational mind and made me question if I would even be able to navigate life correctly. However, I came to find out that the colors I saw glowing within each letter was a phenomenon called synesthesia. I randomly stumbled across this information when I came across an online video of an artist who also had the same thing. They talked about how people’s names evoked different colors and they had created a series of paintings, each painted with the colors in reference to the selected name. This sparked my interest. Maybe I could use art as a medium to express what I could see. Prior to this realization, art had been just a hobby. I had enjoyed picking up new skills such as sewing, crocheting, painting, and drawing, but had never seen them as anything more. But with this, my entire outlook on art widened, I could create works that could show people what I so deeply desired to share. By the time middle school came around, I began experimenting with sculptural elements in my art. This piqued my interest in a way that nothing else had. I realized that I wanted the rest of my life to be filled with art, I wanted to learn as many possible mediums as I could and turn it into a career to sustain the rest of my life. I was hungry for an art education, but the fact that it was inaccessible to me in my middle school made my tiny pre-teen heart ache. Thankfully however, I ended up moving to California right in the middle of my freshman year of high school, and the new school I was enrolled into gave me a plethora of options. I explored digital arts, delved into a more comprehensive painting class, and by then, I knew that no part of my future could make me happy in a different career field. By now, my scope of the arts is broadening and what was once an indescribable mashing of colors can now be shown through my hands. Even with what I have learned now, I still crave to learn. As a senior in high school, accumulating my work into a portfolio has assured me that art college is the next step in my life, a place where I can further grow my understanding, to share to people how I perceive the world and to also see how others do as well.
Paula Guerra
Lakeview Leadership AcademyVICTORVILLE, CA
Throughout my whole life, I've had a harder time talking about or expressing how I feel than other people would. I feel like I had so much to say, so much to let out, yet nothing would. Bottling up my emotions like that affected me for a long time, I knew there was something I had to do about it. Then I realized that art was a perfect outlet for me. These images flowed out from my pencil so much easier than words ever could. I feel like it got my point across, it let out a release. Drawing has made me express myself more than anything else could. Over the years I still use drawing to show emotions, whether it's digital or traditional, but not just negative ones anymore. For example, I always draw for my boyfriend, it can be a silly doodle or a full portrait of him. These pieces I make for him are gifts of love, to show that he is my muse, my favorite person. My sketchbook is filled with drawings of him, he has brought so much joy into my life since I met him and I love to draw the happiness and love he gives me. I also enjoy drawing stuff for my family and friends as gifts to show how much I love and care for them too. This experience made me want to let other people know how much art can help and let you release these bottled emotions. This started my passion for wanting to become an art teacher. I want other individuals to know that art is an option and that no one should have to hide how they feel. What I love about art is that it's all selective and personal. No one draws identically, I love seeing different versions of how people express themselves through it, scribbles, thin lines, thick lines, bright colors, dark colors. It's fascinating. My dream of becoming an art teacher would let me see this every day and I'd treasure every single second. Even when I feel alone, I know art is always there for me. I know I can always rely on it when I can't really get the words out. Art has made me improve my mental health and even learn how to communicate better. I wouldn't be the person I am today without it and I can't wait to accomplish my dream of sharing this discovery with other people.
Annika Brown
Wildwood SchoolLos Angeles, CA
It doesn’t matter that it’s a nightly tradition at my house, I never tire of the moment when I get to hop on the couch wrapped in a fuzzy blanket with a piece of cake, ready to embark on a new adventure. My family TV time is not only a loved practice for the three of us but has inspired my current goal of working in the animation industry. To me, art has always been about storytelling. Anyone from my third-grade class will recount with a groan how my friend and I spent every recess illustrating our own book series, Pip and Froggy. After that, it was comics that carpeted the floor of my room as I sketched out scenes from the chaos of middle school life. Now, I am drawn to the way a picture can dance across a screen, or clay can be moved one frame at a time to tell a story. As a lifelong creative, my artistic practice informs my outlook on life. On one hand, there are the technical abilities any great animator must master. So whether it's figure sketching on the train or plein air painting at the beach, I aim to constantly study from the life around me. This builds an immediate deeper connection between me and every place I go, as my perception of it is forever cemented in the sketchbooks I fill. It also motivates me to seek adventure as I jump at the chance to leave the house, always excited for unlikely subjects waiting to be discovered. On the other hand, it is narratives that drive any great piece of media. I collect stories daily from my own life like postcards, storing them in note apps and Google Docs on my phone. I jot down funny remarks overheard on the bus and deep conversations I’ve had with my parents. I sketch characters of the people I meet who are brimming with personality. Collecting these stories reminds me to look up from my sketchbook every now and then. It compels me to take risks and meet new people because I never know what may become my next inspiration. Taking risks has been a particularly important part of my artistic journey. It is with this skill that I learned to let my art be seen, an inevitable part of being a creator. When I started high school, my art was something I hid away from prying eyes. I was ashamed of every imperfection and self-conscious of my weird stories. In 10th grade, four other artists and I decided to collaborate on a huge mural for our school art show. Although we faced setbacks, and communication issues, in the end, we completed the project. The support I received from my teachers and peers inspired me to show my solo work at gallery shows for my remaining years of high school. Through this work, I told my own stories. I presented digital paintings of places in my life, often with an added magic touch. When I share my work, my hands still sweat and my voice still shakes, but it gets a little bit easier every time. As this year's Film and Media Arts Festival rolls around, I am excited to be submitting animation for the first time. I hope that someone in the crowd may look at my humble beginnings and feel a resemblance to the joy I get every night with my family in front of my TV. That magical moment when I watch a drawing come alive before my eyes and marvel at the cross between art and storytelling.
Emely Vasquez
Fountain Valley High SchoolSANTA ANA, CA
My background in music starts off as a 10 year old who is inspired by my brother who plays the piano and introduced me to music. Since then I’ve been playing the piano at my local church and started to get more into the musical part. From there I’ve fallen in love with music and started to create some with my brother and is now a huge part of my family. My goals in pursuing a musical degree is to make christian music and influence others during tough times. Piano is a way where I can express my feelings and impact others through my music. By using my talent and creating songs with the piano I can encourage other people I know about music. Another goal is being a piano teacher and encouraging others to pursue their dream of music. My career aspirations are to give comfort through music and relieve stress from the world through music. It has impacted me greatly and I would like to share my experiences with others. Through my experience with music I faced challenges like feeling lonely or having stress and anxiety but music help me get through it. I use Music to express my feelings and help me get through many challenges. It’s a way where I can feel safe and free from stress in my life. Music has affected my life in a very positive way because it helps me get through the tough seasons in life. Loosing my grandpa during COVID was a very hard time for my life. One way that help our family overcome the sadness was through music. It has impacted our family because today we continue as a family band. My hopes for my career is to influence young people to get involved with music and have a great experience with it. From the help of scholarships I could achieve my goals to teach children and adults the piano and give lessons that will inspire them. This college will help me achieve my career aspirations by learning more about music and increase my skill of the piano and other aspects of music. My dream school includes music which is my passion and I believe that this school will help me achieve my dreams. It would be an honor to be accepted to this school because I grew up with a musical family and it’s very important to me. With all being said I would appreciate this opportunity to be a part of this scholarship and have a bachelors degree that will help me with my career. Kind Regards, Emely Vasquez
Jesus Garcia
Synergy Quantum AcademyLOS ANGELES, CA
Art has been a big part of my life. It has helped me express my creativity and emotions. But it has also helped me have fun and release any negativity that I have outside of life. I’ve always enjoyed drawing since I was younger, especially drawing many different cartoon shows like Power Rangers and Pokemon. Those shows have influenced me to become more serious about art and develop a passion for art but now as my future career. I have been drawing since I was a child until now when I am a young adult. I draw every day to improve this talent and show others my art, and I've also developed relationships with my community and family by creating art that also represents where I come from. I create characters that will someday inspire other youth like myself to be proud of where they come from. I started my art journey by drawing the Pokemon from the library books I would read. When drawing Pokemon I started to learn some of the fundamentals like implementing shapes to sketch the actual drawing and learning how to create good proportions for my art. After learning from Pokemon I went and started drawing characters from my favorite animes. When drawing those, helped me understand a little bit about human anatomy and using more shapes for the structure of the body. At that point, I was happy with what I drew, but I felt like something was missing from my art. So that’s when I started to add more color to my pieces and that helped me find the missing piece within my art. From there I kept practicing drawing and started to learn more by watching videos on YouTube. But now, I feel like I can do more than just draw something and color it, I can tell a story with my art. I learned this extra skill by taking an AP Art class right now for my senior year. This class has helped me improve the simplicity of the art. It also helped create my first original piece one that I never thought I would make too. It’s fun sitting in the class and just drawing, it gave me more freedom and enjoyment with art. Also while taking this art class, I’ve been thinking about having a career in art and studying in an art school when I go to college. Without that class, I wouldn’t have been able to have the motivation to strive for an art career. Throughout this whole process of my art journey, I’ve learned that it takes lots of time to improve on what you want to do, and when you do improve you’ll start enjoying this talent that you’ve improved on. I’m happy that I’m choosing this path with art and would like to see what my future holds with my art journey.
Jayde Grant
DePaul UniversityLos Angeles, CA
Cindy Vo
Valley View High SchoolMoreno Valley, CA
Ever since I was younger, I have always had a passion for art and design. I would always love to draw my favorite characters and make collages of my favorite things. This can be little flower petals on trees, cutting out magazines, and accessorizing with stickers. My love for art has never left, and I am now in my senior year of high school. During my middle school and high school years, I was told by adults around me what I should do with my life and what I should do on my career. My parents often pushed me towards the medical field, since it was deemed the best stable job in their eyes. This made me feel more and more pressured, since I didn’t know what I wanted to do then. During my 16-17 years of age, I realized that I found passion in design. As I explored and experienced more, I really enjoyed seeing other peoples' designs, and thought of doing something similar myself. I talked to my family about considering design as a possible career field. However, my father was disappointed, and my mother was strongly against it, as she always wanted me to do something in the medical field. I was often feeling down because of societal standards, and what is seen as stable careers such as engineering, law, or a doctor. This led me to feel trapped and lost about what I should do with my life. So, as I began my research within the design field, I found out about universities and colleges that have the majors that would help me for my career. I wanted to somehow put my artwork into the designs I create, and make unique creations that make me who I am. I overcame the obstacles in my way by speaking up with my counsellors, videos, and gain more experience with design. With inspiration from videos online, art, and things I see outside. I love to look at people and take references because everyone is so unique, different, and diverse. Everyone has their own stories and preferences, which I want to implement in what I do. Same with different stores, objects, and natures I get inspired. I created my own website with a theme of a fake cafe, by creating the logo, mockups, and designing the visuals. I also created countless art of my characters that gave me design ideas. I enjoy creating digital art and digital design since there are various of creativity and entertainment to explore. I was always more on the creative side and had a great imagination. I love to look up to some of my favorite artists and designers, by going to museums, online resources, and galleries that help inspire me for my career. I want to use my artistic and creative abilities in my designs where my work stands out. Although my family wasn’t exactly happy with the path I was taking, I knew myself and what I wanted to do in the future. I want to be able to show others I that succeeded, and even if there are many challenges that come my way, I am not afraid to face them. In the end, art is something I am very passionate about and want to pursue in the future. I want to not only make myself happy but to change peoples’ mindset and imagination when they view at my work.
Ruu Portillo
Canyon Springs High SchoolMoreno Valley, CA
My love for art is something that has followed me everywhere for as long as I can remember. It's something that's helped me grow into the person that I am today. It's been my most loyal friend, it's always there for me when I'm feeling anything. It's a part of everything I've ever known, it's in every aspect of the world if you know how to look for it and I've been fortunate enough to learn this at a young age. Since before I was born my dad has had an admiration and eye for creating art. It was a part of the culture of growing up in East Los Angeles. With graffiti, local murals, and prison art that was well respected throughout the community but never really seen as a career. So when I was born and my parents moved away, they were always very supportive of the arts and what they could teach me from it. I was drawing every chance that I got, coloring pictures with my dad while my mom was at work, or painting with him in our old garage. He's been one of my biggest supporters and is now a big inspiration because being an artist is his full-time job, breaking a stigma in our Latino household. My parents have been able to influence my expressive personality at such a young age and I've been able to find that passion rise in me slowly as I got older. A challenge I've had was being so insecure with myself so creating art has always been an outlet for me. It's been my biggest way of expressing myself and the way that I feel, even if that meant just picking out my outfit. Whether it was painting, collaging, or drawing, I used what I had learned my whole life to my greatest advantage. I pour my heart into every project I make, spending days if not weeks to perfect my vision. Originating your own art can teach you so much about yourself. It teaches you patience and kindness towards yourself. It showed me how to overcome my battles and to ground myself when I felt that the chaos of my brain was too much for me to handle. I love to not only make work of my own but to enjoy the work of others. Just being able to see how every good and every bad part of the world has pushed people to be inspired to use their voices. I think that creating something that makes people feel less alone is one of the most beautiful things that life has to offer. To know that art has made such an important impact and not just in my life but in all of history as we know it. And I mean this in every form of art. Film, music, and painting are all forms of it that have shaped the creativity that I hold so close to my heart. Seeing the works of others, the love, and the sense of community it gives to people makes me want to push my adoration for the topic toward my future career and study art history in college. I don't know the person I would be without the influence of art in my life. My parents' being supportive of the things I've gone on to show interest in is a blessing alone. I think art is something so complex and it's done so much for me. It'd be a dream to pass that love to other kids who have that spark of light as I once did.
Annabelle Ortega
Los Angeles High School of the ArtsMONTEREY PARK, CA
Arts have had a positive impact on my life for the twelve years I have done it. At the ripe age of five, I started my true passion for dance and continue it now as a seventeen-year-old. Throughout my twelve years of dancing, I trained at local dance studios perfecting my craft and experiencing the idea of collaboration with many talented artists in creating beautiful pieces. I began sharing my art with the world by volunteering at her local studio called Adage Dance Center where I taught the young dancers ballet and tap, I also became a student representative at my arts high school called Lachsa. One challenge I overcame was breaking a bone in my foot which stopped me from doing what I love the most. It was in 2018 right before the most important competition of the year and I broke a bone in the most important part of a dancer's body. The 2 months I was sitting out felt like the longest months of my life. As a dancer, I wanted to get up and move every second of the day but I couldn't and it was truly heartbreaking. Luckily, I pushed and constantly iced my foot every night to make a full recovery just in time for the competition. Although it was a difficult experience, I overcame it and came back stronger and ready to learn and dance more. Dance has always been a part of my life and I may have had a few setbacks, but this is what pushed me to grow tremendously and allow me to continue my passion for the arts in college for my professional career. In my professional career, I am hoping to continue dancing, and working with artists in the industry, while also becoming a dance therapist, becoming this beneficial person to lean on when dancers need support for their foundation, moral, and overall physical selves. The arts have truly affected my life for the better, influencing creativity, well-being, cultural understanding, and social change. Dance specifically has become my whole world, the surrounding, the drive, and the overall passion I have for this art is everything. I am hoping to get into an amazing college to continue pursuing and excelling in my craft. Art as a whole gives me meaning and helps me with my understanding of the world. The appreciation I have for art improves my quality of life and makes me feel good. Creating art specifically in dance elevates my mood, improves my ability to problem solve, and opens my mind to new ideas in the near future.
Lian Francine Batungbacal
Laguna College of Art and DesignGlendale, CA
There’s always that dreaded situation in every art student’s mind: their parents will never accept their passion to pursue a career in the arts. It’s a job that sets you up for failure, there’s no money involved, finding employment is hard, art will burn down your house, pull a John Wick on your dog… every single horror a parent can imagine. However, it was the opposite for me. It was I who feared my own hobby. “Mom, dad, I want to be an English professor at some university… it’ll be good pay.” “Mom, dad, I want to be a dentist since it’s good money.” Year after year, I had been scrounging up the best-paying jobs to dream of and hope to accomplish for the sake of putting my parents in a better position for retirement–however, my true love, art, had been sitting in the back and collecting dust. That was until I stepped into my first figure drawing class that I applied to on a whim. When I stepped through those doors, my tide suddenly pooled into an ocean. There was something fantastical about it. The people there all loved art and had worked on their craft for ten, twenty, thirty, even forty years. They wielded jobs at Disney or Netflix, and passionately discussed the nuances of art and creation. This experience was a catalyst in my spiral down the art rabbit hole, and suddenly I wanted to create. There were worlds that I had stuffed down the drain, characters that had been locked away in closets, creatures shoved behind textbooks of math and science to never see the light of day again–but I wanted to bring them all out, my own Renaissance was at my fingertips. That was when I realized that I did not want to be a professor, a dentist, or a nurse. “Mom, dad… I want to be an artist.” I was prepared for their response. Art sets you up for failure, there’s no money involved, finding jobs is hard, and there’s no stable future in art. “I wish you had told me sooner. I would have enrolled you in many art classes,” my mother said. My parents were completely supportive of me in pursuing my dreams. This shook me to my core and brought tears to my eyes. My mother brought up some advice she had been repeating to me since I was a little kid. “Whatever you want to do, you will be the best at it. Even if you’re a janitor, or a waitress, or a McDonald’s worker, be the best.” From then on, art has had such a profound impact on my life. I worked hard, and eventually gained an art internship to pitch my ideas and experience the art industry firsthand, I applied to three art classes to help me along my path, and I wanted to expand this horizon further for others and myself, so I created a Discord server that houses 360+ young artists who connect, create, and share with each other on the daily. I’m very lucky to have such loving and supportive parents who will walk with me through my path, but we have many roadblocks, such as money. The only way they will allow me to go to some of my most wanted art schools is if I scrounge up enough money for a full ride–but if it means that I will get to do what I truly love as a job and give back to my parents in the future, then so be it. For art and for my parents, it is all worth it.
Leslie Pagel
Crawford High SchoolSan Diego, CA
Whenever creative activities would come up at schools, teachers would arduously await the wacky creative endeavors I brought to school: From a hat made of rag dolls to a full cosplay of the Aztec God Mictlantecuhtli. Teachers would pat me on the head, knowing well enough that the mastermind behind everything was never this 10-year-old standing before them. Of course. And just like a hero in disguise, my father is a carpenter on the surface but an artist at heart, building replicas of cartoon structures, sewing plushies for me and my sibling, and making pyrography signs for his friends. My grandmother is an artist too, but contrary to my dyslexic father, she reads and writes poetry every morning and night. Then comes the third generation of the family. If she happens to be an artist, she is set up for greatness, backed up by her creative family support, right? One would think that. But, surprisingly, the answer is not quite so direct. Sure, they feel great that I have followed through with being creative as a hobby, but as a career? And digital? And Queer? I somehow came to disappoint them in every way possible. They do not consider digital art to be real art. Throughout my entire life, this disappointment has plagued my family relationships. 'Why not become a tattoo artist? Or a mural painter? If you like digital things, you should do computer science.' And as if my medium was not enough to make their hearts heavy, the subject of my art drove them further into this sad belief of failure. They consider activism to be ugly and Queerness to be taboo. They are not interested in learning about my community history and think of it as a waste of talent. In their eyes, that has been what hammered down my setup failure. It is not about my creativity but about my identity as their daughter. But all of their beliefs are what I am trying to turn upside down. They fuel my career as an artist and activist. I want to prove there is a place for artists like me; To have my identity as Queer and Latin American be worthy of representation in art. If it had not been for other LGBTQ+, Latinx artists that inspired me when I was young, I would have followed the path of my past generations: I would have stopped creating, and I would have stopped fighting. But I have not. Because now that I have grown as a person and a creator, I understand my responsibility to inspire other teens who are going through the same doubt about their identities or their success in pursuing art. Still, the odds are against me for being a low-income immigrant. So much doubt has made me stronger. I have placed myself in all types of creative leadership positions to prepare me for what will come in my career. I enjoy working with teaching artists that have walked the path I want to walk. Art has inspired me to reach for the stars, and people who doubt me push me higher toward my goal. But even through all this, I wonder what would have happened. What if my father and grandmother had not been discouraged from pursuing their passion for art? I hope they can use me as a vessel of their unaccomplished dreams and one day laugh off the doubt they ever had in me.
Mailin Martinez
California State University-FullertonChula Vista, CA
My parents emigrated to this country from Mexico having limited education and opportunities. My mom was a housekeeper and could not afford childcare so during summers and after school, my siblings and I went with her. As my family moved from one house to another the only thing that cured my boredom was the cartoons I would watch. We didn't have sufficient money for cable, therefore I longed to go to my mom’s work as I found comfort in the cartoons I’d watch while I was there. It was during those moments, I realized that I wanted to pursue creativity in a career and became passionate about the creative arts. My parents thought of art as just a hobby, however, I later learned that art could be more than that. I have always had an inkling that I wanted to become an artist, but it wasn't until my sophomore year in high school that it was confirmed. Although the idea of attending and pursuing art was something my parents opposed, it was something I dreamed of. From watching accepted art portfolios and tutorials on how to draw or color pieces, I was able to develop and evolve as an artist. At the end of my sophomore year, I created an art account to push myself to draw more. I am passionate more specifically about animation in studio arts, and interested in stop motion and 2D animation due to my connection and admiration for this powerful medium. The artist's ability to manipulate something as simple as a character's eyes creates a great connection and emotion with the viewer. This form of art allowed me to grow, was a huge part of my childhood and sparked that want and need to pursue art. In an attempt to replicate the art I saw as I child, although I would get frustrated, creating art was something I could never get rid of and always picked up. The way I have used this medium and the creative arts, in general, to portray my opinions and showcase what I admire, allows me to grow mentally and stylistically. This form has become very essential in my life as it has allowed me to grow out of this shell I was in when I was younger and allowed me to truly admire and showcase what I like without the fear of being judged. I want to be able to continue to not only voice what I like but though this be able to help and be a voice for others, it is something I aspire to be able to continue to do for the rest of my life. I aspire to learn and be able to create something that allows me to express myself, communicate with others, and comfort people as cartoons did to me as a kid.
Krystal Tablas
Gompers Preparatory AcademySan Diego, CA
Last summer, my sister inspired me to start a rug-making business. Although we both knew that it would be kind of impossible because the supplies were too much money. I decided to watch some youtube videos about what to do as a beginner. It was a lot of time-consuming and money to go for it. My sister and I talked about what my first step would be. To start we had to find a way to save up money for the cost. I decided to gather some old clothes and send them to a thrift store in exchange for money. Though I felt like I gave too much and received 30 dollars for 5 pairs of pants and 8 pairs of shirts. But I couldn’t stop there, I decided to work with my mom over the week. Right after school, I had to change and eat in 30 minutes and head to work. We would clean some sorority houses in a university by my house. This took a lot of my energy and I had to figure out time management. I didn’t have much time to do my homework and study for the test. I would often hit an all nighter and wouldn’t get any rest. Until the 2 months, I was able to raise a sufficient amount to purchase my tools. There were a lot of calculations to add up like measuring my frame with wood that had to build for the base of my rug/cloth. A week later I bought all my materials and 4 different locations and successfully had everything. Now I had to complete a profile pic for my business. I had to come up with a variety of different looks for my rug profile and eventually posted my first-ever video customizing a rug. I was so proud of myself and even though I haven't blown up I am waiting for the time. I was very stressed with organizing the prices of the different sizes and colors and had to figure out the amount of time I was putting into each rug depending on the price. So I had to count down my hours and although I didn't have many buyers I was still happy with everything. I have learned that solving solutions takes mistakes, effort, passion and patience to find the key. Although I am just beginning I know the right time would come and I was able to find a solution to my problem.
Rebeca Refugio
Palomar CollegeEscondido, CA
Throughout my childhood, I had always said I was going to be a doctor or a surgeon when asked what I wanted to be in the future. Both my parents had always encouraged it, saying how proud they would be and saying that they knew they would be in good hands with me as a doctor. My parents would give me multiple play sets for playing doctor as a kid and my mother and father would always call me to get their pills and always say in Spanish, “Doctora” for years. 8th grade came around and we were given a presentation about what we were planning to major in for college. It suddenly hit me that I did not want to be a doctor anymore as I realized that I was not passionate about the job and did not want to deal with all the stress and issues that came along from working in the field either. I was then given the idea of becoming an animator or an artist as I had always enjoyed drawing and creating from a young age. When I announced that I was no longer going to pursue as a doctor or surgeon to my family, my brother was proud that I wanted to pursue animation as he had always complimented my artwork. My sister and second brother approved as they believed I had the capabilities of pursuing other forms of art careers and even starting my own business if I wanted to. My father was a bit saddened, but understood my decision and allowed me to work in whatever major I wanted as long as I could afford it. My mother, however, was shocked and disappointed as she believed that there would be a doctor in our family that achieved a high level of education who gained large amounts of money for our family, and was able to take care of them when they got sick. For years she would make small comments about how she would miss not having a doctor in the house or ask me if I was sure that I didn’t want to be a doctor. Years down the line however, she sat me down one day and said to me that I can do whatever I want and that she will be happy with whatever I choose as long as it makes me happy. Art has always helped me in many ways that I never knew it could. I could create another world and show it to people and let them be encapsulated in it and bond with our love for art. Art has helped me show others what I can do with my creativity and understand myself more as it is something intimate to me and a way to express my mind and thoughts. Art has always been special to me and has even helped me through life events, meeting new people, gaining new opportunities, and keeping me passionate about creating and being in touch with myself. Without art, it would have made my life more bleak and bland, but I am grateful for it and the fortunate things it has brought me, and hope I can continue growing with it in my life.
Jocelyn Villalobos
Alliance Piera Barbaglia Shaheen Health Services AcademyLos Angeles, CA
I never revealed to my parents that I wanted to pursue music, but when I did, they weren't very encouraging. They thought my voice was terrible and that I wouldn't get anywhere with music because it's not a major or minor that leads to a foreign life, so I chose to choose a different major and have the arts as my minor because I wasn't going to give up something I love just because they told me to. Since I was a young child, music has played a significant role in my life. I believe that everyone has a favorite song that they play repeatedly because it uplifts them. I want to create music in the future that people will associate with good memories rather than unpleasant ones. My goal is to give the song to a house, and I believe that music has changed me for the better. I was going through some really difficult times in my life; I was alone; I was over here looking for a job; and the only thing next to me was music; it was the one thing that made me happy because I knew that I always had it with me. I could hear a simple melody in my head and that would help me get through the day or night, no matter where I was. I could tap my finger on a piece of wood or a table and my mind is cleared art comes in different forms, and the way you perceive your particular form of art affects how you feel differently. For me, music has impacted me in a particular way, and it always will. I felt rejected not only by friends but also by my parents, who always told me I wouldn't amount to anything, but I vowed to disprove them and demonstrate that I was superior to them before moving on. Like her just as I look that artist when I was a little girl, I wanted someone to look up to me and say I want to be just like you please show me how to be just like you. I want to show him how to do it because it's all about making mistakes but never giving up, and I hope that someone could take that advice. i believe anyone can love art and i hope other people see it the way that i do.
Shania Camaja
Maranatha High SchoolAlhambra, CA
Art and being creative has always played a valuable role in my life. Since I was young, it was how I expressed myself when I could not find the right words to form the right sentences. I am self-taught, so many of my early years meant experimenting with colors and shapes, proportions and compositions, adjusting my skills till everything looked right, even if I didn't understand why. My family was always supportive of my hobby because they saw the potential I had to grow into a great artist. Even when my upbringing was rocky and asking for new markers seemed like a burden financially, they always surprised me with new supplies every Christmas. Eventually, I could simply ask for supplies and their response remained the same,“ as long as you need it and it makes you happy, let's get it.” However, when high school began and my family became concerned about the career I was hoping to pursue, I finally decided on graphic design. I had tried to avoid this decision, claiming I wanted to be an engineer, but my skills in math and science could only support that statement for so long, so I gave in and told them what I truly wanted to dedicate my life to. At first, there was heavy skepticism from my family as none were familiar with a career in the arts. Being first-generation students, my siblings have paved the way as officers in the army and degrees in criminology or nursing. These fields were far beyond my dreams of being in the arts. Yet I explained to them how heavily drawing, illustrating, painting, and designing impacted my life every day and how it's a job necessary to the modern world. I pleaded to them how every day they need or see something that was designed by someone's hard work, whether it be the packaging of their favorite drink or their experience using an app. I learned how to use my skills in painting and drawing to become better in graphic design so I can one day create environmentally friendly products for a new generation of technology and innovation. I reminded them how proud I was of myself for painting a mural on my high school campus, one that I had designed and led others in completing. This was the type of work that fully complimented my leadership skills and creativity and it would have a positive impact on the community around us. After continuous discussions and conversations with people in the field, my dream was now a reality they too sought to complete with me. My dream of becoming a graphic designer is the best decision I will ever make because it not only will make me into a better person, skillfully and mentally, but it also means I have my family on my side through it all.
Sophia Hoover
Steele Canyon HighSpring Valley, CA
I grew up in a one-parent household, and my mom always ensured I had everything I needed, including art classes. She wanted to make sure that I grew up with some aspirations. Growing up, I was allowed to be a part of cheer, gymnastics, and different music classes, but none of them stuck with me as art has. I'm so fortunate to have my mom. Even if these classes weren't within our budget, she always ensured that I was there because she knew I loved art. I always took an art class during my childhood, no matter what school I attended. I have taken at least one art class every year throughout my high school career. And during my junior year, I won second place in the mixed media division in the GUHSD art show and walking off that stage and back to my mom, she couldn't stop telling me how proud she was of me, and that is what showed me that I wanted to study art. I had wanted to go into psychology because it interested me, and I also saw that it paid well. Still, it wasn't something I was passionate about, and I knew that if I studied that instead of art, I would be disappointed in myself. So I decided that I wanted to study either fine arts or art history because becoming an art curator is also a career that interests me. When I shared this with my mom, she was thrilled because she knew how much art meant to me. My mom has always supported me in all my artistic endeavors, allowing me to freely express myself without fear of disapproval because making my mom proud is something I aspire to do with all of my decisions. And being met with this overwhelming support from my mom has given me the confidence to know that I am going to study art because it's something that has always been there for me, even during the rough times growing up. Another dream of mine is to be able to study abroad to study art, and this is another thing my mom supports me in. She always tells me that no matter what I decide to do with my life in the future that it's something that I love and interests me. She has always wanted me to grow up and do everything I love, such as traveling around the world or becoming a professional artist, which I have always wanted to be since I took my first art class. And this is how art has become my life and why I wish to pursue it in my future and have worked hard to be where I am right now, but one thing is that my mom has always been there precisely, beside me supporting me with every decision I made. Thank you for reading about how art has left such a significant impact on my life.
Kyra Phillips
Otis College of Art and DesignChula Vista, CA
My art obsession started from humble beginnings... Tracing anime pictures... Trying to impress someone... Wanting more character development because, frankly, my character was relatively one-dimensional when I was ten. After realizing how challenging yet fun art is, it took off as my number one hobby. I started drawing every day-- once I finished my school work and while doing my school work in school-- I was unstoppable. Then, one day a few years later, I was stuck on what to draw and asked my mother, who once did hyper-realistic art, what I should draw. She told me to practice body positioning and to just put my characters into random scenes and poses. This one suggestion set my hobby ablaze. In the next four years, I continued to grow my art style and ability, and I branched out into writing stories and planning comics for fifty or more original characters. I started looking for anything art related, from comic books to animated TV series. Drawing every day, filling up to thirty sketchbooks, making comics, posting comics-- All of it. My entire life was surrounded by art, and I loved every moment. I currently have three different universes, over ten unique stories planned out, and the confidence to enter art contests and display my artwork around my school. I have also stepped out of my digital and pencil comfort zone to expand into watercolor, acrylic, color penciled, charcoal, and other traditional mediums. Here I am now, with about seven years' worth of art practice, art classes every year of my school life, 2 AP art classes in my latest high school, and looking into scholarships, art colleges, and jobs that can help me pursue my dream of using my hobby as my career, no matter how long it takes me. If it weren't for that suggestion from my mother, I wouldn't be as skilled or fast as I am at art as I am today. I would have never tried to branch out into different mediums. I wouldn't be where I am today without that one suggestion. You can probably guess that my mother is very much on board with me applying to art colleges/universities. Everyone in my family is very supportive and willing to help continue my educational journey, no matter what. The only concern about my plans is the money issues we may or may not face. My family has always been low-class or lower-medium-class, so money has always been an issue for us, which is why I'm extensively planning the next stage of my life, looking for ways to pay for tuition and help ease any concerns or stress in my family.
Angelica Garcia
California State University-San MarcosVista, CA
Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted to pursue the arts. I was always told “They don’t earn good money” “Thats dumb, how are you supposed to survive in the real world”. They always thought it was a waste of time and that it wasn’t worth anyone’s time. They tried steering my path towards other careers like nursing, teacher, surgeon, or basically any of the science majors. They would’ve all just been happy with me pursing something I wasn’t happy in. None of those careers interested me. They weren’t me. My brother was the only one who was happy for me when I told him that I wanted a career in the arts. For a moment I felt accepted and it made me happy to at least have one person to support me. Having everyone trying to steer me into another career hasn’t been easy. It makes me feel unaccepted, like I’m the one that’s missing something. Not being able to make everyone happy made me feel so much pressure to find another career that would make them happy. In my mind it was like they thought I didn’t have what it takes to be an artist. Art has always been a great way for me to be me. It allowed me to express myself in ways I didn’t know I could. Till this day I’m still learning about new ways that I can create. Art was always an outlet for me. It allowed me to see the world through a new lens and take in its beauty, it’s true beauty. Having somewhere to be able to step away to when I’m hurting, confused, or just tired has been great, it’s allowed me to create many wonderful things that not just I get to see. I share my art with others and they seem to be able to find a connection to it too and I love that we’re able to share an experience through an art piece even if it wasn’t the same event. Art comes in so many didn’t forms and so many of them have been a part of my life. Art truly has made me a better person. I’m not someone who looks like they would create art so when I do mention that I do this as a hobby that is what they think and nothing more. They think I’m not good and that I have to prove to them just how good I am. For some time it did feel like I needed to do that because I was always trying to prove to my family that it was the right choice for me but after some time I stopped and I allowed my work to do the talking for me.


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The application deadline is Mar 1, 2024. Winners will be announced on Apr 1, 2024.

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