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Justice Cillo-Smith

2625

Bold Points

1x

Finalist

1x

Winner

Bio

Nice to meet you! I am Justice, an autistic & physically disabled nonbinary lesbian artist from NJ. I am neurodivergent (ASD + ADHD) and I am currently a high school senior (WOHS ‘24). Art has been one of my main aspirations since I was very young. As I move onto my college career, I hope to hone my art skills even more. I am an honored member of my school’s chapters of National Honors Society, National Art Honors Society, and National Honors Society of Dance. I am an active member of my school’s Art Club, GSA, and Girls Up! Club. Even outside of school, my passion for art is present. My art has been published in the Celebrating Art publication’s Fall 2023 anthology and I have won a Portfolio Gold Key and individual Gold Key for the prestigious Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. My art has been displayed in the West Orange Arts Center, a place I also volunteered for. Outside of academics, I am also very passionate about the arts and advocacy. Interest wise, I enjoy video games, horror movies, and music. I plan to receive an Associates in Fine Arts at County College of Morris before transferring to a bachelor’s degree program at an art school! I am looking for help with tuition as a low-income student with the need for financial assistance. I have never let my financial instability get me down, and instead have taken the initiative to apply to as many scholarships I qualify to! Thank you for this amazing opportunity!

Education

County College of Morris

Associate's degree program
2024 - 2023
  • Majors:
    • Visual and Performing Arts, General

West Orange High School

High School
2020 - 2023
  • GPA:
    3.9

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Bachelor's degree program

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Visual and Performing Arts, General
    • Design and Applied Arts
    • Fine and Studio Arts
    • Accounting and Computer Science
    • Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Arts

    • Dream career goals:

      Freelance Illustrator & Game Developer/Storyboard Artist

    • Retail Associate

      Six Flags Great Adventure
      2024 – Present7 months
    • Assistant Teacher

      Little Explorers Early Learning Academy
      2024 – Present7 months
    • Dietary Aide

      Greenhill Senior Living and Rehabilitation
      2022 – 20231 year
    • Server

      Guerriero Gelato
      2022 – 2022
    • Sales Associates

      Spirit Halloween
      2023 – 2023

    Sports

    Dancing

    Club
    2010 – Present14 years

    Cheerleading

    Club
    2010 – 20155 years

    Research

    • Visual and Performing Arts, General

      National Art Honors Society — Member & Volunteer
      2020 – Present
    • Visual and Performing Arts, General

      Moore College of Art and Design — Student
      2023 – 2023

    Arts

    • Access Broadway

      Dance
      2016 – 2020
    • School Production

      Theatre
      All in the Timing
      2023 – 2023

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      MS Walk — Volunteer
      2024 – 2024
    • Volunteering

      West Orange TNVR — Animal Foster Caregiver and Volunteer
      2019 – Present
    • Volunteering

      West Orange Arts Council — Gallery Assistant
      2024 – 2024
    • Volunteering

      United Asian Voices — Volunteer and Performer
      2023 – 2024
    • Volunteering

      Annual Youth Symposium — Volunteer
      2022 – 2022
    • Volunteering

      Love & Unity Festival — Performer & Volunteer
      2023 – 2023

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    John Traxler Theatre Scholarship
    Since childhood, my aspiration has consistently revolved around an art-related career. I would spend hours drawing, researching art schools even as as in middle school, and watching videos of artists’ lives in school. Although I have struggled greatly with financial challenges as a low-income student and a child of divorce, being raised mostly by my mother until my stepfather and her married, I have remained steadfast in my ambition of becoming an artist. Although countless people have told me that this is a silly dream, one that isn’t worth it as I will only fail or be poor, I have not backed down. I am a honored member in my school’s National Art Honors Society as well as our Art Club. I’m a regional Gold Key award recipient from Scholastic Art and Writing Competition for my portfolio. As an artist, I would identify myself as someone who pushes boundaries. I would say my art is always very fluid. I don’t limit myself with posing but I also don’t stray away from geometric shapes to go with the roundness of your style. I find myself being very color focused and could never use the same sort of palette twice. My diverse color usage has brought me vibrant and stylistic art. Furthermore, I try many different things. Even if I don’t like a medium or find myself having difficulties in it, I always challenge myself. I’m very detail oriented when it matters as to our just an extra touch on my artwork. In general, an artist, I see myself as someone who is passionate about expressing emotions while still keeping in things that I enjoy. Whenever someone is to ask me what I want my art to do, I always tell them the same answer. “I want to make people feel things.” In many cases, I do try to express happiness and joy, but as I’ve grown, my art has become more complex. Currently I’m exploring abstract emotions within my art such as grief and alienation. I’ve also further been studying my anatomy to try to get a grasp on it and diversify my palette in a way. Art has been an immensely important aspect of my life since I can remember. Due to this, art has been my career path since I decided my ambition in my early life and I hope to refine my skills throughout my secondary education career.
    Frank and Patty Skerl Educational Scholarship for the Physically Disabled
    It’s 2020. I’m wearing my mask and I can see my breath fog up my glasses. I move the mask up just a little bit more over the bridge of my nose so I can see clearly. My heart’s racing and my pediatrician just called for two nurses to make sure the reading she got was right. I feel tears run down my face as she exclaims, seemingly to herself, “That’s way too high.” She looks at me and tells me to calm down, it’s just making my heart beat faster. I can’t calm down though, because the moment she tells my mom I need to be brought to the emergency room I start crying even harder. My glasses fog up again. I’m thankful that for whatever reason, I was not forced into an ambulance that day. That despite my panic attack and entirely too high heart rate, the nurses and doctors were able to calm me down and get my mother a list of cardiologists. Eventually, my mother took me to a cardiologist and we did all sorts of tests. I had to sit down, then stand up, then sit down, then lay down, then stand up again. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, but they were testing my heart rate. By the end of our visit, I was told I either have POTS or a heart disease. They promised neither were serious, gave me a heart monitor to wear for two weeks, and sent me on my way. Following my weeks on a heart monitor, they officially diagnosed me with POTS. Also known as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, POTS is an autoimmune and orthostatic intolerance disorder that affects heart rate and blood volume when changing position. Prior to my diagnosis, I was also diagnosed with PFS (Patellofemoral syndrome), causing my knees and legs to be extremely weak. My diagnoses didn’t change my life. Instead, it only really gave me a name to my experiences for years. Being disabled feels like constantly explaining yourself. While I have always felt left out, especially being neurodivergent, when my disabilities began to present themselves, I felt even more isolated. In school, I felt as though I was constantly judged. If I were to express my disability, I would be met with scowls and questioning that felt completely inappropriate. It hurt the most when even school administration questioned my disabilities. Even with a doctor’s note, countless teachers and admins have questioned me, asking me how I identify as disabled if I don’t look the part. While I struggled, I also found a sense of belonging in the disabled community. Even with people who had different disabilities than me, I felt as though I was able to express myself and my struggles while finding pride in my identity. I was not lazy, I was a disabled person living in a world that was unfortunately not built for me. As an artist for my entire life, my diagnoses allowed me to reevaluate my place. I noticed a lack of disabled voices in mainstream art. I strived to express my struggles and my joy through my art. While my artwork draws from personal experiences, I aspire to convey struggles and triumphs of individuals similar to me. I aim for my pieces to serve as a way of understanding disabled individuals, enabling able-bodied viewers to recognize that although our ailments may be an important part of us, we are not solely defined by them. Through our creativity, we can produce impactful works of art that can transcend the boundaries imposed by our disabilities.
    Dwight "The Professor" Baldwin Scholarship
    It’s 2020. I’m wearing my mask and I can see my breath fog up my glasses. I move the mask up just a little bit more over the bridge of my nose so I can see clearly. My heart’s racing and my pediatrician just called for two nurses to make sure the reading she got was right. I feel tears run down my face as she exclaims, seemingly to herself, “That’s way too high.” She looks at me and tells me to calm down, it’s just making my heart beat faster. I can’t calm down though, because the moment she tells my mom I need to be brought to the emergency room I start crying even harder. My glasses fog up again. I’m thankful that for whatever reason, I was not forced into an ambulance that day. That despite my panic attack and entirely too high heart rate, the nurses and doctors were able to calm me down and get my mother a list of cardiologists. Eventually, my mother took me to a cardiologist and we did all sorts of tests. I had to sit down, then stand up, then sit down, then lay down, then stand up again. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, but they were testing my heart rate. By the end of our visit, I was told I either have POTS or a heart disease. They promised neither were serious, gave me a heart monitor to wear for two weeks, and sent me on my way. Following my weeks on a heart monitor, they officially diagnosed me with POTS. Also known as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, POTS is an autoimmune and orthostatic intolerance disorder that affects heart rate and blood volume when changing position. Prior to my diagnosis, I was also diagnosed with PFS (Patellofemoral syndrome), causing my knees and legs to be extremely weak. My diagnoses didn’t change my life. Instead, it only really gave me a name to my experiences for years. Being disabled feels like constantly explaining yourself. While I have always felt left out, especially being neurodivergent, when my disabilities began to present themselves, I felt even more isolated. In school, I felt as though I was constantly judged. If I were to express my disability, I would be met with scowls and questioning that felt completely inappropriate. It hurt the most when even school administration questioned my disabilities. Even with a doctor’s note, countless teachers and admins have questioned me, asking me how I identify as disabled if I don’t look the part. While I struggled, I also found a sense of belonging in the disabled community. Even with people who had different disabilities than me, I felt as though I was able to express myself and my struggles while finding pride in my identity. I was not lazy, I was a disabled person living in a world that was unfortunately not built for me. As an artist for my entire life, my diagnoses allowed me to reevaluate my place. I noticed a lack of disabled voices in mainstream art. I strived to express my struggles and my joy through my art. While my artwork draws from personal experiences, I aspire to convey struggles and triumphs of individuals similar to me. I aim for my pieces to serve as a way of understanding disabled individuals, enabling able-bodied viewers to recognize that although our ailments may be an important part of us, we are not solely defined by them. Through our creativity, we can produce impactful works of art that can transcend the boundaries imposed by our disabilities.
    Sparkle and Succeed Scholarship
    I was diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, and a speech articulation disorder when I was very young, a diagnosis that seemed inevitable to my mother as she had noticed my struggles in school and outside. Peculiar behaviors like difficulty reading and an aversion to loud noises were just some that got my mother to find my psychiatric help. Unlike my brother and what most developmental milestones stated, I only started to speak and walk when I was 16 months. Despite my mother’s efforts to try to get me a 504 or an IEP as early as kindergarten, the school district consistently denied accommodations, citing my success in reading and my good grades, overlooking the concept of being twice gifted. Due to the lack of support, my struggles became evident during my transition to middle and high school. Extremely late nights doing work, procrastination, and difficulty understanding lessons became the norm for me. I especially had difficulties in English and Math, struggling with executive dysfunction, not reading assigned books due to disinterest, and struggling with understanding all of the numbers and equations for math. My grades had always been average, and I even was able to be on the honor roll all of 6th grade. However, as I grew, my grades declined and I transformed from a perceived gifted student into a struggling one, marked by almost always having B’s and C’s. Finally, in my junior year of high school, I attempted to get a 504 again, especially regarding my physical disability. Although I suspect my physical disability played more of a role than my neurological struggles, being approved felt like a breakthrough, providing the accommodations I needed for my entire educational career. Despite improved support, I continue to have trouble with social interactions, going out of my way to seek help, and navigating the experience of secondary education. Challenges including planning schedules, interacting with people, and handling accommodations independently as an adult have caused me to struggle with my upcoming college career. My struggles being neurodivergent have allowed me to learn to persevere even when I wasn't supported by school. Throughout my educational journey, being neurodivergent has compelled me to devise my accommodations and to struggle to find official accommodations. It has resulted in a continuing struggle with academic work and the demands of adulthood as well as my subsequent college education. This struggle along with my financial need and perseverance makes me a good candidate for this scholarship as I desperately require aid for my further education. I hope to get an Associate’s in Visual Arts and then move onto a four-year college. My aspiration in art is something that is deeply personal to me and allows me to express my struggles regarding my disabilities as well.
    Jonas Griffith Scholarship
    It’s 2020. I’m wearing my mask and I can see my breath fog up my glasses. I move the mask up just a little bit more over the bridge of my nose so I can see clearly. My heart’s racing and my pediatrician just called for two nurses to make sure the reading she got was right. I feel tears run down my face as she exclaims, seemingly to herself, “That’s way too high.” She looks at me and tells me to calm down, it’s just making my heart beat faster. I can’t calm down though, because the moment she tells my mom I need to be brought to the emergency room I start crying even harder. My glasses fog up again. I’m thankful that for whatever reason, I was not forced into an ambulance that day. That despite my panic attack and entirely too high heart rate, the nurses and doctors were able to calm me down and get my mother a list of cardiologists. Eventually, my mother took me to a cardiologist and we did all sorts of tests. I had to sit down, then stand up, then sit down, then lay down, then stand up again. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, but they were testing my heart rate. By the end of our visit, I was told I either have POTS or a heart disease. They promised neither were serious, gave me a heart monitor to wear for two weeks, and sent me on my way. Following my weeks on a heart monitor, they officially diagnosed me with POTS. Also known as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, POTS is an autoimmune and orthostatic intolerance disorder that affects heart rate and blood volume when changing position. Prior to my diagnosis, I was also diagnosed with PFS (Patellofemoral syndrome), causing my knees and legs to be extremely weak. My diagnoses didn’t change my life like many people describe theirs to have. Instead, it only really gave me a name to my experiences for years. Being disabled feels like a constant battle of explaining yourself. While I have always felt left out, especially being neurodivergent, when my disabilities began to present themselves, I felt even more isolated. I would have to literally and figuratively slow people down so I could keep up with them. Even in school, I felt as though I was constantly judged. If I were to express my disability, I would be met with scowls and questioning that felt completely inappropriate. It hurt the most when even school administration questioned my disabilities, telling me there was no way for them to confirm that I was disabled without getting a different doctor’s note every year, forcing me to spend more money than needed. Even with a doctor’s note, countless teachers and admins have questioned me, asking me how I identify as disabled if I don’t look the part. While I struggled, I also found a sense of belonging in the disabled community. Even with people who had different disabilities than me, I felt as though I was able to express myself and my struggles while finding pride in my identity. I was not lazy, I was a disabled person living in a world that was not built for me. As an artist for my entire life, my diagnoses allowed me to reevaluate my place in the art community. I noticed a lack of disabled voices, particularly physically disabled ones. As someone who is neurodivergent and physically disabled, I strived to express my struggles and my joy through my art. While my artwork draws from my personal experiences, I aspire to convey the boarder struggles and triumphs of individuals similar to me. I aim for my pieces to serve as a way of understanding disabled individuals, enabling neurotypical and able-bodied viewers to recognize that although our ailments may be an important part of us, we are not solely defined by them. Through our creativity, we can produce beautiful and impactful works of art that can transcend the boundaries imposed by our disabilities.
    WCEJ Thornton Foundation Music & Art Scholarship
    Since childhood, my aspiration has consistently revolved around an art-related career. I would spend hours drawing, researching art schools even as as in middle school, and watching videos of artists’ lives in school. Although I have struggled greatly with financial challenges as a low-income student and a child of divorce, being raised mostly by my mother until my stepfather and her married, I have remained steadfast in my ambition of becoming an artist. Although countless people have told me that this is a silly dream, one that isn’t worth it as I will only fail or be poor, I have not backed down. I am a honored member in my school’s National Art Honors Society as well as our Art Club. I’m a regional Gold Key award recipient from Scholastic Art and Writing Competition for my portfolio. As an artist, I would identify myself as someone who pushes boundaries. I would say my art is always very fluid. I don’t limit myself with posing but I also don’t stray away from geometric shapes to go with the roundness of your style. I find myself being very color focused and could never use the same sort of palette twice. My diverse color usage has brought me vibrant and stylistic art. Furthermore, I try many different things. Even if I don’t like a medium or find myself having difficulties in it, I always challenge myself. I’m very detail oriented when it matters as to our just an extra touch on my artwork. In general, an artist, I see myself as someone who is passionate about expressing emotions while still keeping in things that I enjoy. Whenever someone is to ask me what I want my art to do, I always tell them the same answer. “I want to make people feel things.” In many cases, I do try to express happiness and joy, but as I’ve grown, my art has become more complex. Currently I’m exploring abstract emotions within my art such as grief and alienation. I’ve also further been studying my anatomy to try to get a grasp on it and diversify my palette in a way. Art has been an immensely important aspect of my life since I can remember. Due to this, art has been my career path since I decided my ambition in my early life and I hope to refine my skills throughout my secondary education career.
    Elizabeth Schalk Memorial Scholarship
    I was diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, and a speech articulation disorder when I was very young, a diagnosis that seemed inevitable to my mother as she had noticed my struggles in school and outside. Peculiar behaviors like difficulty reading and an aversion to loud noises were just some that got my mother to find my psychiatric help. Unlike my brother and what most developmental milestones stated, I only started to speak and walk when I was 16 months. Despite my mother’s efforts to try to get me a 504 or an IEP as early as kindergarten, the school district consistently denied accommodations, citing my success in reading and my good grades, overlooking the concept of being twice gifted. Due to the lack of support, my struggles became evident during my transition to middle and high school. Extremely late nights doing work, procrastination, and difficulty understanding lessons became the norm for me. I especially had difficulties in English and Math, struggling with executive dysfunction, not reading assigned books due to disinterest, and struggling with understanding all of the numbers and equations for math. My grades had always been average, and I even was able to be on the honor roll all of 6th grade. However, as I grew, my grades declined and I transformed from a perceived gifted student into a struggling one, marked by almost always having B’s and C’s. Finally, in my junior year of high school, I attempted to get a 504 again, especially regarding my physical disability. Although I suspect my physical disability played more of a role than my neurological struggles, being approved felt like a breakthrough, providing the accommodations I needed for my entire educational career. Despite improved support, I continue to have trouble with social interactions, going out of my way to seek help, and navigating the experience of secondary education. Challenges including planning schedules, interacting with people, and handling accommodations independently as an adult have caused me to struggle with my upcoming college career. My struggles being neurodivergent have allowed me to learn to persevere even when I wasn't supported by school. Throughout my educational journey, being neurodivergent has compelled me to devise my accommodations and to struggle to find official accommodations. It has resulted in a continuing struggle with academic work and the demands of adulthood as well as my subsequent college education. This struggle along with my financial need and perseverance makes me a good candidate for this scholarship as I desperately require aid for my further education. I hope to get an Associate’s in Visual Arts and then move onto a four-year college. My aspiration in art is something that is deeply personal to me and allows me to express my struggles regarding my disabilities as well.
    To The Sky Scholarship
    I was diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, and a speech articulation disorder when I was very young, a diagnosis that seemed inevitable to my mother as she had noticed my struggles in school and outside. Peculiar behaviors like difficulty reading and an aversion to loud noises were just some that got my mother to find my psychiatric help. Unlike my brother and what most developmental milestones stated, I only started to speak and walk when I was 16 months. Despite my mother’s efforts to try to get me a 504 or an IEP as early as kindergarten, the school district consistently denied accommodations, citing my success in reading and my good grades, overlooking the concept of being twice gifted. Due to the lack of support, my struggles became evident during my transition to middle and high school. Extremely late nights doing work, procrastination, and difficulty understanding lessons became the norm for me. I especially had difficulties in English and Math, struggling with executive dysfunction, not reading assigned books due to disinterest, and struggling with understanding all of the numbers and equations for math. My grades had always been average, and I even was able to be on the honor roll all of 6th grade. However, as I grew, my grades declined and I transformed from a perceived gifted student into a struggling one, marked by almost always having B’s and C’s. Finally, in my junior year of high school, I attempted to get a 504 again, especially regarding my physical disability. Although I suspect my physical disability played more of a role than my neurological struggles, being approved felt like a breakthrough, providing the accommodations I needed for my entire educational career. Despite improved support, I continue to have trouble with social interactions, going out of my way to seek help, and navigating the experience of secondary education. Challenges including planning schedules, interacting with people, and handling accommodations independently as an adult have caused me to struggle with my upcoming college career. My struggles being neurodivergent have allowed me to learn to persevere even when I wasn't supported by school. Throughout my educational journey, being neurodivergent has compelled me to devise my accommodations and to struggle to find official accommodations. It has resulted in a continuing struggle with academic work and the demands of adulthood as well as my subsequent college education. This struggle along with my financial need and perseverance makes me a good candidate for this scholarship as I desperately require aid for my further education. I hope to get an Associate’s in Visual Arts and then move onto a four-year college. My aspiration in art is something that is deeply personal to me and allows me to express my struggles regarding my disabilities as well.
    Student Life Photography Scholarship
    Terry Masters Memorial Scholarship
    The everyday world around me is a continuous source of inspiration to my artistic expression. Particularly, my unique experience and interaction with the world as a physically disabled and autistic nonbinary lesbian has always helped me to create artwork that is personal in the same way that it is relatable. I have always intended to create art that is clearly inspired by my own life but can be understood and interpreted by others who may not share similar experiences. As an artist, even outside of my own experiences, I tend to notice things that those who aren’t artists tend to overlook about our world. From the interplay with light and dark in the sunlight beaming through the trees to the intricacies in the expression of human emotion. Nature has always been a source of inspiration for my art as well, especially the natural relationships between animals and plants. I have always been fascinated by the metaphorical nature of certain types of relationships in the world. My identity and personal journey add depth to my artwork, allowing me to explore different themes of diversity, identity, and the human experience. I aspire to amplify the voices of those who are marginalized and disprivileged such as myself through my artwork. I see art as a powerful tool to nurture empathy and understanding. My main hope with my art is that everyone, no matter their background, may feel something when they look at it. Each day I am alive I am surrounded by new layers of inspiration from the world around me. I attempt to translate my discoveries onto paper in a way that not only represents my own perspective but also reflects the broader human experience.
    Robert and Suzi DeGennaro Scholarship for Disabled Students
    It’s 2020. I’m wearing my mask and I can see my breath fog up my glasses. I move the mask up just a little bit more over the bridge of my nose so I can see clearly. My heart’s racing and my pediatrician just called for two nurses to make sure the reading she got was right. I feel tears run down my face as she exclaims, seemingly to herself, “That’s way too high.” She looks at me and tells me to calm down, it’s just making my heart beat faster. I can’t calm down though, because the moment she tells my mom I need to be brought to the emergency room I start crying even harder. My glasses fog up again. I’m thankful that for whatever reason, I was not forced into an ambulance that day. That despite my panic attack and entirely too high heart rate, the nurses and doctors were able to calm me down and get my mother a list of cardiologists. Eventually, my mother took me to a cardiologist and we did all sorts of tests. I had to sit down, then stand up, then sit down, then lay down, then stand up again. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, but they were testing my heart rate. By the end of our visit, I was told I either have POTS or a heart disease. They promised neither were serious, gave me a heart monitor to wear for two weeks, and sent me on my way. Following my weeks on a heart monitor, they officially diagnosed me with POTS. Also known as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, POTS is an autoimmune and orthostatic intolerance disorder that affects heart rate and blood volume when changing position. Prior to my diagnosis, I was also diagnosed with PFS (Patellofemoral syndrome), causing my knees and legs to be extremely weak. My diagnoses didn’t change my life. Instead, it only really gave me a name to my experiences for years. Being disabled feels like constantly explaining yourself. While I have always felt left out, especially being neurodivergent, when my disabilities began to present themselves, I felt even more isolated. In school, I felt as though I was constantly judged. If I were to express my disability, I would be met with scowls and questioning that felt completely inappropriate. It hurt the most when even school administration questioned my disabilities. Even with a doctor’s note, countless teachers and admins have questioned me, asking me how I identify as disabled if I don’t look the part. While I struggled, I also found a sense of belonging in the disabled community. Even with people who had different disabilities than me, I felt as though I was able to express myself and my struggles while finding pride in my identity. I was not lazy, I was a disabled person living in a world that was unfortunately not built for me. As an artist for my entire life, my diagnoses allowed me to reevaluate my place. I noticed a lack of disabled voices in mainstream art. I strived to express my struggles and my joy through my art. While my artwork draws from personal experiences, I aspire to convey struggles and triumphs of individuals similar to me. I aim for my pieces to serve as a way of understanding disabled individuals, enabling able-bodied viewers to recognize that although our ailments may be an important part of us, we are not solely defined by them. Through our creativity, we can produce impactful works of art that can transcend the boundaries imposed by our disabilities.
    Frank and Patty Skerl Educational Scholarship for the Physically Disabled
    It’s 2020. I’m wearing my mask and I can see my breath fog up my glasses. I move the mask up just a little bit more over the bridge of my nose so I can see clearly. My heart’s racing and my pediatrician just called for two nurses to make sure the reading she got was right. I feel tears run down my face as she exclaims, seemingly to herself, “That’s way too high.” She looks at me and tells me to calm down, it’s just making my heart beat faster. I can’t calm down though, because the moment she tells my mom I need to be brought to the emergency room I start crying even harder. My glasses fog up again. I’m thankful that for whatever reason, I was not forced into an ambulance that day. That despite my panic attack and entirely too high heart rate, the nurses and doctors were able to calm me down and get my mother a list of cardiologists. Eventually, my mother took me to a cardiologist and we did all sorts of tests. I had to sit down, then stand up, then sit down, then lay down, then stand up again. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, but they were testing my heart rate. By the end of our visit, I was told I either have POTS or a heart disease. They promised neither were serious, gave me a heart monitor to wear for two weeks, and sent me on my way. Following my weeks on a heart monitor, they officially diagnosed me with POTS. Also known as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, POTS is an autoimmune and orthostatic intolerance disorder that affects heart rate and blood volume when changing position. Prior to my diagnosis, I was also diagnosed with PFS (Patellofemoral syndrome), causing my knees and legs to be extremely weak. My diagnoses didn’t change my life. Instead, it only really gave me a name to my experiences for years. Being disabled feels like constantly explaining yourself. While I have always felt left out, especially being neurodivergent, when my disabilities began to present themselves, I felt even more isolated. In school, I felt as though I was constantly judged. If I were to express my disability, I would be met with scowls and questioning that felt completely inappropriate. It hurt the most when even school administration questioned my disabilities. Even with a doctor’s note, countless teachers and admins have questioned me, asking me how I identify as disabled if I don’t look the part. While I struggled, I also found a sense of belonging in the disabled community. Even with people who had different disabilities than me, I felt as though I was able to express myself and my struggles while finding pride in my identity. I was not lazy, I was a disabled person living in a world that was unfortunately not built for me. As an artist for my entire life, my diagnoses allowed me to reevaluate my place. I noticed a lack of disabled voices in mainstream art. I strived to express my struggles and my joy through my art. While my artwork draws from personal experiences, I aspire to convey struggles and triumphs of individuals similar to me. I aim for my pieces to serve as a way of understanding disabled individuals, enabling able-bodied viewers to recognize that although our ailments may be an important part of us, we are not solely defined by them. Through our creativity, we can produce impactful works of art that can transcend the boundaries imposed by our disabilities.
    John Young 'Pursue Your Passion' Scholarship
    Since childhood, my aspiration has consistently revolved around an art-related career. I would spend hours drawing, researching art schools even as as in middle school, and watching videos of artists’ lives in school. Although I have struggled greatly with financial challenges as a low-income student and a child of divorce, being raised mostly by my mother until my stepfather and her married, I have remained steadfast in my ambition of becoming an artist. Although countless people have told me that this is a silly dream, one that isn’t worth it as I will only fail or be poor, I have not backed down; because to me, this is a realistic dream as it is a huge part of my existence. I am a honored member in my school’s National Art Honors Society as well as our Art Club. Furthermore, I am a member of my school’s National Honors Society and a board member of the ASL Club. I was a finalist for a poster contest and have even won an honorable mention in my regional awards for Scholastic Art and Writing. As an artist, I would identify myself as someone who pushes boundaries. I would say my art is always very fluid in a way. I don’t limit myself with posing but I also don’t stray away from geometric shapes to go with the roundness of your style. I find myself being very color focused and could probably never use the same sort of palette twice. My diverse color usage has brought me vibrant and very stylistic art. Furthermore, I try many different things. Even if I don’t like a medium or find myself having difficulties in it, I always challenge myself. I’m very detail oriented when it matters as to our just an extra touch on my artwork. In general, an artist, I see myself as someone who is passionate about expressing emotions while still keeping in things that I enjoy. Whenever someone is to ask me what I want my art to do, I always tell them the same answer. “I want to make people feel things.” In many cases, I do try to express happiness and joy, but as I’ve grown, my art has become more complex. Currently I’m exploring abstract emotions within my art such as grief and alienation. I’ve also further been studying my anatomy and realism to try to get a grasp on it and diversify my palette in a way. Art has been an immensely important aspect of my life since I can remember. Due to this, art has been my career path since I decided my ambition in my early life and I hope to refine my skills throughout my secondary education career.
    Rainbow Futures Scholarship
    As one of the few openly lesbian students in my school, I’ve faced discrimination throughout my life. From hushed slurs to blatant homophobia, it’s a familiar, though undeserved, part of my life. However, one of the most challenging moments of my journey through identity occurred in 7th grade. I had recently seen the musical “The Prom,” a show that resonated with me as a lesbian who has also confronted in-school discrimination. Inspired by the show, I wore a merchandise shirt I bought at the show that read “We’re All Lesbians” to school on September 25th, 2019. My excitement was cut short when, in second period, I was called to the office and issued a dress code violation. Initially, my shirt was deemed inappropriate, and the office cited the dress code’s clauses on hate speech and sexual innuendos. Devastated and entirely uncomfortable, I called my mother, who was in class at the time. I spent the next two periods in the office waiting for her. When she arrived, we spoke with the Principal and Guidance Counselors together. As soon as we pointed out that their violation was homophobic, they went back on their statement. Instead, they claimed I was dress-coded to protect me from potential harassment due to the word “lesbian” on my shirt. I was furious. I had been discriminated against and had my education disrupted only for them to defend it under the guise of protection. After being advised to attend a Board of Education meeting, my mother posted about the incident on Facebook. Before the meeting, we conducted an experiment: a friend of mine, also a lesbian, borrowed the shirt and wore it to the other middle school in our district. She not only received praise but wore it on a day that they had an assembly on LGBTQ+ rights presented by Garden State Equality. At the Board of Education meeting, the members condemned the dress code violation I received. As a result, students and I organized a protest at our middle school. With the help of several others, we created shirts and papers reading the same “We’re All Lesbians” message and wore them to school. On the day of the protest, the principal set up a lunchtime meeting where he acknowledged the mistake and promised to make decisions in the future to foster a more accepting environment. Multiple news outlets reached out to hear my story, but my main concern was always to show that no student should be silence by those in positions of power. Standing up against the dress code was my way of saying it wasn’t right. What struck me the most was when someone told me they found the courage to come out to their friends because of my story. It made me realize that by standing up for what I believe in, I could make a positive impact on the world. This challenge was tough, given the very public hatred I received directed at my identity, but knowing that I inspired others made it worthwhile. This scholarship will be used to help support me in college. As a low-income student, my secondary education journey has been difficult. I have been unable to support myself with application costs or almost anything else. In addition to my financial struggles, I am a physically disabled and autistic student which causes more difficulty in my ability in college. I require accommodations as well as struggle with challenges presented in adulthood. I will use this scholarship for my tuition and help with housing during my time. This will help me gain a start in supporting myself.
    ADHDAdvisor's Mental Health Advocate Scholarship
    I was diagnosed with ADHD and an articulation disorder when I was very young, a diagnosis that seemed inevitable to my mother as she had noticed my struggles in school and outside. Unlike my brother and what most developmental milestones stated, I only started to speak and walk when I was 16 months. Despite my mother’s efforts to try to get me a 504 or an IEP as early as kindergarten, the school district denied accommodations, citing my success in reading and my good grades, overlooking the concept of being twice gifted. Due to the lack of support, my struggles became evident during my transition to high school. Procrastination and difficulty understanding lessons became the norm for me. I especially had difficulties in English and Math, struggling with executive dysfunction and struggling with understanding all of the numbers and equations for math. My grades had always been average, and I even was able to be on the honor roll. However, as I grew, my grades declined and I transformed from a perceived gifted student into a struggling one, marked by always having B’s and C’s. Finally, in my junior year of high school, I attempted to get a 504 again, especially regarding my physical disability. Although I suspect my physical disability played more of a role, being approved felt like a breakthrough, providing the accommodations I needed for my entire educational career. Despite improved support, I continue to have trouble with social interactions, going out of my way to seek help, and navigating the experience of secondary education. Challenges including planning schedules, interacting with people, and handling accommodations independently as an adult have caused me to struggle with my upcoming college career. My struggles being neurodivergent have allowed me to learn to persevere even when I wasn't supported by school.
    Kalia D. Davis Memorial Scholarship
    Since childhood, my aspiration has consistently revolved around an art-related career. I would spend hours drawing, researching art schools even as as in middle school, and watching videos of artists’ lives in school. Although I have strujggled greatly with financial challenges as a low-income student and a child of divorce, being raised mostly by my mother until my stepfather and her married, I have remained steadfast in my ambition of becoming an artist. Although countless people have told me that this is a silly dream, one that isn’t worth it as I will only fail or be poor, I have not backed down; because to me, this is a realistic dream as it is a huge part of my existence. I am a honored member in my school’s National Art Honors Society as well as our Art Club. Furthermore, I am a member of my school’s National Honors Society and a board member of the ASL Club. I was a finalist for a poster contest and have even won an honorable mention in my regional awards for Scholastic Art and Writing. As an artist, I would identify myself as someone who pushes boundaries. I would say my art is always very fluid in a way. I don’t limit myself with posing but I also don’t stray away from geometric shapes to go with the roundness of your style. I find myself being very color focused and could probably never use the same sort of palette twice. My diverse color usage has brought me vibrant and very stylistic art. Furthermore, I try many different things. Even if I don’t like a medium or find myself having difficulties in it, I always challenge myself. I’m very detail oriented when it matters as to our just an extra touch on my artwork. In general, an artist, I see myself as someone who is passionate about expressing emotions while still keeping in things that I enjoy. Whenever someone is to ask me what I want my art to do, I always tell them the same answer. “I want to make people feel things.” In many cases, I do try to express happiness and joy, but as I’ve grown, my art has become more complex. Currently I’m exploring abstract emotions within my art such as grief and alienation. I’ve also further been studying my anatomy and realism to try to get a grasp on it and diversify my palette in a way. Art has been an immensely important aspect of my life since I can remember. Due to this, art has been my career path since I decided my ambition in my early life and I hope to refine my skills throughout my secondary education career. This scholarship will be used to help support me in college. As a low-income student, my secondary education journey has been difficult. I have been unable to support myself with application costs or almost anything else. In addition to my financial struggles, I am a physically disabled and autistic student which causes more difficulty in my ability in college. I require accommodations as well as struggle with challenges presented in adulthood. I will use this scholarship for my tuition or help with housing during my time in college. This will help me gain a headstart on supporting myself.
    A Man Helping Women Helping Women Scholarship
    Since childhood, my aspiration has consistently revolved around an art-related career. I would spend hours drawing, researching art schools even as as in middle school, and watching videos of artists’ lives in school. Although I have struggled greatly with financial challenges as a low-income student and a child of divorce, being raised mostly by my mother until my stepfather and her married, I have remained steadfast in my ambition of becoming an artist. Although countless people have told me that this is a silly dream, one that isn’t worth it as I will only fail or be poor, I have not backed down; because to me, this is a realistic dream as it is a huge part of my existence. I am a honored member in my school’s National Art Honors Society as well as our Art Club. Furthermore, I am a member of my school’s National Honors Society and a board member of the ASL Club. I was a finalist for a poster contest and have even won an honorable mention in my regional awards for Scholastic Art and Writing. As an artist, I would identify myself as someone who pushes boundaries. I would say my art is always very fluid in a way. I don’t limit myself with posing but I also don’t stray away from geometric shapes to go with the roundness of your style. I find myself being very color focused and could probably never use the same sort of palette twice. My diverse color usage has brought me vibrant and very stylistic art. Furthermore, I try many different things. Even if I don’t like a medium or find myself having difficulties in it, I always challenge myself. I’m very detail oriented when it matters as to our just an extra touch on my artwork. In general, an artist, I see myself as someone who is passionate about expressing emotions while still keeping in things that I enjoy. Whenever someone is to ask me what I want my art to do, I always tell them the same answer. “I want to make people feel things.” In many cases, I do try to express happiness and joy, but as I’ve grown, my art has become more complex. Currently I’m exploring abstract emotions within my art such as grief and alienation. I have always tried to incorporate my personal experiences into my art, especially those regarding being physically disabled and neurodivergent. All faucets of my identity can be viewed visually throughout my artistic expression. I’ve also further been studying my anatomy and realism to try to get a grasp on it and diversify my palette in a way. Art has been an immensely important aspect of my life since I can remember. Due to this, art has been my career path since I decided my ambition in my early life and I hope to refine my skills throughout my further educational career.
    Career Test Scholarship
    Since childhood, my aspiration has consistently revolved around an art-related career. I would spend hours drawing, researching art schools even as as in middle school, and watching videos of artists’ lives in school. Although I have struggled greatly with financial challenges as a low-income student and a child of divorce, being raised mostly by my mother until my stepfather and her married, I have remained steadfast in my ambition of becoming an artist. Although countless people have told me that this is a silly dream, one that isn’t worth it as I will only fail or be poor, I have not backed down; because to me, this is a realistic dream as it is a huge part of my existence. I am a honored member in my school’s National Art Honors Society as well as our Art Club. Furthermore, I am a member of my school’s National Honors Society and a board member of the ASL Club. I was a finalist for a poster contest and have even won an honorable mention in my regional awards for Scholastic Art and Writing. As an artist, I would identify myself as someone who pushes boundaries. I would say my art is always very fluid in a way. I don’t limit myself with posing but I also don’t stray away from geometric shapes to go with the roundness of your style. I find myself being very color focused and could probably never use the same sort of palette twice. My diverse color usage has brought me vibrant and very stylistic art. Furthermore, I try many different things. Even if I don’t like a medium or find myself having difficulties in it, I always challenge myself. I’m very detail oriented when it matters as to our just an extra touch on my artwork. In general, an artist, I see myself as someone who is passionate about expressing emotions while still keeping in things that I enjoy. Whenever someone is to ask me what I want my art to do, I always tell them the same answer. “I want to make people feel things.” In many cases, I do try to express happiness and joy, but as I’ve grown, my art has become more complex. Currently I’m exploring abstract emotions within my art such as grief and alienation. I have always tried to incorporate my personal experiences into my art, especially those regarding being physically disabled and neurodivergent. All faucets of my identity can be viewed visually throughout my artistic expression. I’ve also further been studying my anatomy and realism to try to get a grasp on it and diversify my palette in a way. Art has been an immensely important aspect of my life since I can remember. Due to this, art has been my career path since I decided my ambition in my early life and I hope to refine my skills throughout my secondary education career.
    Dylan's Journey Memorial Scholarship
    I was diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, and a speech articulation disorder when I was very young, a diagnosis that seemed inevitable to my mother as she had noticed my struggles in school and outside. Peculiar behaviors like difficulty reading and an aversion to loud noises were just some that got my mother to find my psychiatric help. Unlike my brother and what most developmental milestones stated, I only started to speak and walk when I was 16 months. Despite my mother’s efforts to try to get me a 504 or an IEP as early as kindergarten, the school district consistently denied accommodations, citing my success in reading and my good grades, overlooking the concept of being twice gifted. Due to the lack of support, my struggles became evident during my transition to middle and high school. Extremely late nights doing work, procrastination, and difficulty understanding lessons became the norm for me. I especially had difficulties in English and Math, struggling with executive dysfunction, not reading assigned books due to disinterest, and struggling with understanding all of the numbers and equations for math. My grades had always been average, and I even was able to be on the honor roll all of 6th grade. However, as I grew, my grades declined and I transformed from a perceived gifted student into a struggling one, marked by almost always having B’s and C’s. Finally, in my junior year of high school, I attempted to get a 504 again, especially regarding my physical disability. Although I suspect my physical disability played more of a role than my neurological struggles, being approved felt like a breakthrough, providing the accommodations I needed for my entire educational career. Despite improved support, I continue to have trouble with social interactions, going out of my way to seek help, and navigating the experience of secondary education. Challenges including planning schedules, interacting with people, and handling accommodations independently as an adult have caused me to struggle with my upcoming college career. My struggles being neurodivergent have allowed me to learn to persevere even when I wasn't supported by school. Throughout my educational journey, being neurodivergent has compelled me to devise my accommodations and to struggle to find official accommodations. It has resulted in a continuing struggle with academic work and the demands of adulthood as well as my subsequent college education. This struggle along with my financial need and perseverance makes me a good candidate for this scholarship as I desperately require aid for my further education. I hope to get an Associate’s in Visual Arts and then move onto a four-year college. My aspiration in art is something that is deeply personal to me and allows me to express my struggles regarding my disabilities as well.
    Natalie Jude Women in the Arts Scholarship
    My favorite piece I’ve created thus far is titled “fleeting”, made on an 8x8 canvas with acrylic paint. The process for this piece was grueling, requiring constant attention to detail on each square piece. With a total of 1024 separate squares painted with all different colors, I took time with this piece to represent what I hoped to show. This piece was inspired by my recently passed grandfather. This piece is a way of expressing complex emotions, acknowledging how my grandfather wasn’t one way or another; he was my superhero along with a flawed individual who hurt others. My grief is a mix of joyful times and aching for the fractured relationships that are still left unresolved. The relationship seemed to just be getting better after his near-death scare in February the same year he died. My feelings feel mosaic, as represented by the pixels in my piece, encapsulating the essence of someone who left both an incredible mark on my life yet remains a painful one for a multitude of reasons. I miss him deeply, even as I grapple with the emotional turmoil his memory brings. This piece is an indicator of the way grief affects a person’s memory of the one they have lost. While my loving memories with my grandfather still exist, they feel foreign and unfamiliar. Through the pixel painting of him holding me as a child, I was able to represent this feeling visually.
    Joieful Connections Scholarship
    Since childhood, my aspiration has consistently revolved around an art-related career. I would spend hours drawing, researching art schools even as as in middle school, and watching videos of artists’ lives in school. Although I have struggled greatly with financial challenges as a low-income student and a child of divorce, being raised mostly by my mother until my stepfather and her married, I have remained steadfast in my ambition of becoming an artist. Although countless people have told me that this is a silly dream, one that isn’t worth it as I will only fail or be poor, I have not backed down; because to me, this is a realistic dream as it is a huge part of my existence. I am a honored member in my school’s National Art Honors Society as well as our Art Club. Furthermore, I am a member of my school’s National Honors Society and a board member of the ASL Club. I was a finalist for a poster contest and have even won an honorable mention in my regional awards for Scholastic Art and Writing. As an artist, I would identify myself as someone who pushes boundaries. I would say my art is always very fluid in a way. I don’t limit myself with posing but I also don’t stray away from geometric shapes to go with the roundness of your style. I find myself being very color focused and could probably never use the same sort of palette twice. My diverse color usage has brought me vibrant and very stylistic art. Furthermore, I try many different things. Even if I don’t like a medium or find myself having difficulties in it, I always challenge myself. I’m very detail oriented when it matters as to our just an extra touch on my artwork. In general, an artist, I see myself as someone who is passionate about expressing emotions while still keeping in things that I enjoy. Whenever someone is to ask me what I want my art to do, I always tell them the same answer. “I want to make people feel things.” In many cases, I do try to express happiness and joy, but as I’ve grown, my art has become more complex. Currently I’m exploring abstract emotions within my art such as grief and alienation. I’ve also further been studying my anatomy and realism to try to get a grasp on it and diversify my palette in a way. Art has been an immensely important aspect of my life since I can remember. Due to this, art has been my career path since I decided my ambition in my early life and I hope to refine my skills throughout my secondary education career.
    College Kick-Start Scholarship
    Since childhood, my aspiration has consistently revolved around an art-related career. I would spend hours drawing, researching art schools even as as in middle school, and watching videos of artists’ lives in school. Although I have struggled greatly with financial challenges as a low-income student and a child of divorce, being raised mostly by my mother until my stepfather and her married, I have remained steadfast in my ambition of becoming an artist. Although countless people have told me that this is a silly dream, one that isn’t worth it as I will only fail or be poor, I have not backed down; because to me, this is a realistic dream as it is a huge part of my existence. I am a honored member in my school’s National Art Honors Society as well as our Art Club. Furthermore, I am a member of my school’s National Honors Society and a board member of the ASL Club. I was a finalist for a poster contest and have even won an honorable mention in my regional awards for Scholastic Art and Writing. As an artist, I would identify myself as someone who pushes boundaries. I would say my art is always very fluid in a way. I don’t limit myself with posing but I also don’t stray away from geometric shapes to go with the roundness of your style. I find myself being very color focused and could probably never use the same sort of palette twice. My diverse color usage has brought me vibrant and very stylistic art. Furthermore, I try many different things. Even if I don’t like a medium or find myself having difficulties in it, I always challenge myself. I’m very detail oriented when it matters as to our just an extra touch on my artwork. In general, an artist, I see myself as someone who is passionate about expressing emotions while still keeping in things that I enjoy. Whenever someone is to ask me what I want my art to do, I always tell them the same answer. “I want to make people feel things.” In many cases, I do try to express happiness and joy, but as I’ve grown, my art has become more complex. Currently I’m exploring abstract emotions within my art such as grief and alienation. I’ve also further been studying my anatomy and realism to try to get a grasp on it and diversify my palette in a way. Art has been an immensely important aspect of my life since I can remember. Due to this, art has been my career path since I decided my ambition in my early life and I hope to refine my skills throughout my secondary education career.
    Heather Rylie Memorial Scholarship
    As someone who is autistic and physically disabled, I have noticed a notable lack of representation within mainstream artistic circles for people similar to myself. Experiences of those with similar backgrounds were rarely acknowledged or celebrated compared to the attention given to neurotypical and able-bodied artists. In response to this lack of representation and the importance of my disabilities within my identity, I have curated my current portfolio around my own personal journey, incorporating my perspective as a disabled and autistic artist. My work focuses on the impact that these attributes of myself have on my relationship with others, media, and my own self-perception. Each piece seeks to encapsulate the hardships and the positive aspects of my experiences. For instance, in my piece, "overload," I aimed to portray a sensory overload that often leads to an autistic meltdown. The deliberate use of diverse materials creates a chaotic composition that helps mirror the overwhelming experience of a sensory overload. My intentions were to create something that may even hurt to look at and to invoke a response that allowed viewers to glimpse into the intense sensory challenges that many autistic individuals, including myself, face. Contrasting this, my piece "recollection (sister)," sheds light on one of the positives of my experiences; the strong bond I share with my younger sister. I explored our deep connection with a drawing of us using stippling and then painting with watercolor over it to show how, despite my disabilities, I found a bond with my sister that I could not be more happy with. While my peers distanced themselves from my "childish" interests and attitude, I found solace in the unique connection I maintained with my sister due to her being younger. Throughout my portfolio and art in general, I deliberately reference personal photographs and include self-portraits to underscore the personal nature of my artistic expression. My creative process involved experimenting with various materials to convey the emotions I wished to express. Ultimately, my goal with this portfolio i to amplify the voices of the underrepresented disabled community in the art world. While my artwork draws from my personal experiences, I aspire to convey the boarder struggles and triumphs of individuals similar to me. I aim for my pieces to serve as a way of understanding disabled individuals, enabling neurotypical and able-bodied viewers to recognize that although our ailments may be an important part of us, we are not solely defined by them. Through our creativity, we can produce beautiful and impactful works of art that can transcend the boundaries imposed by our disabilities.
    Isaac Yunhu Lee Memorial Arts Scholarship
    My piece is entitled “fleeting”, made on an 8x8 canvas with acrylic paint. The process for this piece was grueling, requiring constant attention to detail on each square piece. With a total of 1024 separate squares painted with all different colors, I took time with this piece to represent what I hoped to show. This piece was inspired by my recently passed grandfather. In February of 2022, a few months after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, he had congenital heart failure and was hospitalized while on a work trip in Florida. Almost immediately, my family decided to drive from New Jersey to Florida to be with him. While we took care of him and even supported him through his dialysis treatment, he unfortunately passed suddenly in April. What hurt the most was the fact that it seemed like he was getting better. His dialysis was over and he was just on medicine at the point when he suffered a fatal heart attack doing what he loved, selling his antiques. Thinking about my grandfather feels like sifting through a rollercoaster of emotions, a blend of happy recollections and a pang of sadness. He was my sibling’s and my “Batman”. He said he wanted us to call him that because he always wanted to be a superhero. Ironically, his favorite superhero was Superman. Batman would visit every dance recital of mine, come to every birthday party, and house my siblings and me almost every summer. He would take us on trips every year that now exist as only memories playing in my head. After his passing, I was forced to reflect, unraveling my grandfather’s complexity. In the backdrop of my childhood happiness, my mother carries scars from a father who struggled with addiction, spent much of her childhood in rehab, and who, when she sought support during her divorce from her abusive husband, declined. The contradictions within him become apparent, and as I wrack with his absence since that April in 2022, I find myself grappling with a world of complex emotions. Nostalgic moments of his hugs are juxtaposed with my mother’s tears, as she recounts a past where he fell short as a father and a present where he refused support. Even now, I look back and notice flaws in his treatment of my siblings and me. Growing older brought clarity as is the case with all humans as none of us can be perfect. This piece is a way of expressing these complexities, acknowledging how Batman wasn’t one way or another; he was my superhero along with a flawed individual who hurt others. My grief is a mix of joyful times and aching for the fractured relationships that are still left unresolved. The relationship seemed to just be getting better after his near-death scare in February the same year he died. My feelings feel mosaic, as represented by the pixels in my piece, encapsulating the essence of someone who left both an incredible mark on my life yet remains a painful one for a multitude of reasons. I miss him deeply, even as I grapple with the emotional turmoil his memory brings. This piece is an indicator of the way grief affects a person’s memory of the one they have lost. While my loving memories with my grandfather still exist, they feel foreign and unfamiliar. Through the pixel painting of Batman holding me as a child, I was able to represent this feeling visually.
    Ultimate K-Pop Stan Scholarship
    In 2016, BlockBerry Creative, a subsidiary of Polaris Entertainment, launched a unique predebut concept for their new girl group, LOONA. Dubbed “Who’s Next Girl,” BBC unveiled a new member every month over 18 months, taking breaks from new members due to subunit activities. This approach allowed for the ability of each member to shine and share their skills individually before coming together as a group. By the time of their debut on August 19th, 2018, LOONA had 12 members. LOONA quickly made waves in the realm of K-Pop culture. Their impact went far from Korea, gaining widespread recognition and admiration from different countries. With countless awards and even being named as the Ambassadors of Korean Culture Abroad during their time as LOONA, they have had an incredible impact on the world. Amidst their rise to stardom, however, the group faced challenges that eventually ended their journey. After years of abuse and mistreatment allegations, Chuu was kicked out under BBC’s claims of misconduct. It soon became evident that Chuu was not a perpetrator but a victim. In a show of solidarity, the fandom, known as Orbits, launched a boycott against BBC to highlight accountability in the entertainment industry. In the end, the unfair termination of Chuu led to the remaining members of LOONA pursuing legal action to get out of their contracts, marking the end of an era. Members would move on to join groups or embark on solo journeys. I discovered LOONA in 2018. The first song I ever heard from LOONA was actually “Heart Attack,” Chuu’s solo song. My first impression was absolute joy. I felt so seen with the representation within their song-based universe, Loonaverse. Chuu’s solo along with member Yves’ represented sapphic women in a way I hadn’t seen K-Pop do before. They even represented the voice of disabled women, as shown in their brilliant music videos for “Butterfly” and “Luminous.” The lore and concepts of the Loonaverse is one of the most intriguing multimedia projects I’ve seen in a while. It brought the entire fandom together. Furthermore, I have never seen a fandom that cares as much about their idols as LOONA. The boycott following Chuu’s expulsion was extremely successful, eventually led to the ability for the girls to get out of the abusive situation. LOONA’s music is entirely unique as well. They represent all different cultures and styles. In 2022, I attended their first worldwide tour in Reading, Pennsylvania. I was able to get VIP tickets and meet them. Even with just a short time and despite Chuu’s absence, I felt so overjoyed to meet them. Their warmth, humor, and genuine connection with fans left an unforgettable impression, reaffirming their status not just as idols but as inspirations. I still feel entirely connected to current projects. I seem to always find myself anticipating their new releases. With gratitude, I reflect on the impact of LOONA on myself and others. Although I knew of K-Pop before, they were my true introduction. They had made a perfect first impression on the culture to me. LOONA’s long journey, one that has now expanded to ARTMS and Loossemble, has not only left a mark on my own personal journey but has also reshaped K-Pop as a whole. From their inclusive and diverse narratives as well as music to their unwavering support to their fan base, LOONA embodies the power that K-Pop groups have to use music as a means to inspire, connect, and empower. With each beat and lyric, LOONA continues to inspire hearts in their new projects, leaving a trail of inspiration for generations to come.
    Laurette Scholarship
    Growing up with undiagnosed autism has presented numerous challenges even from my early years. When my mother noticed my peculiar behaviors, like arranging toys by color in the dentist’s office or reacting strongly to any loud sounds, she took me to the doctor. Unfortunately, I was only diagnosed with Attention Deficit-Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and a speech impediment. While my ADHD diagnosis explained some of my behaviors, I always sensed, even with it, that I was missing something my peers had: ease in making friends, social interactions, and resilience to changes in schedule and loud noises. Despite my mother’s efforts to try to get me a 504 or an IEP as early as kindergarten, the school district consistently denied accommodations, citing my success in reading and my good grades, overlooking the concept of being twice gifted. Due to the lack of support, my struggles became evident during my transition to middle and high school. Extremely late nights doing work, procrastination, and difficulty understanding lessons became the norm for me. I especially had difficulties in English and Math, struggling with executive dysfunction, not reading assigned books due to disinterest, and struggling with understanding all of the numbers and equations for math. My grades had always been average, and I even was able to be on the honor roll all of 6th grade. However, as I grew, my grades declined and I transformed from a perceived gifted student into a struggling one, marked by almost always having B’s and C’s. It was during this decline that I started to suspect that more than just ADHD, a speech impediment, and dyslexia, were at play. Learning from my mother’s initial intuition that I had autism as a kid, I realized she might have been correct, and that I had that in addition to my diagnosed ADHD. Finally, in my junior year of high school, I attempted to get a 504 again, especially regarding my physical disability. Although I suspect my physical disability played more of a role than my neurological struggles, being approved felt like a breakthrough, providing the accommodations I needed for my entire educational career. Despite improved support, I continue to have trouble with social interactions, going out of my way to seek help, and navigating the experience of secondary education. Challenges including planning schedules, interacting with people, and handling accommodations independently as an adult have caused me to struggle with my upcoming college career. Throughout my educational journey, my autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has compelled me to devise my accommodations and to struggle to find official accommodations. It has resulted in a continuing struggle with academic work and the demands of adulthood as well as my subsequent college education.
    Hampton Roads Unity "Be a Pillar" Scholarship
    As one of the few openly lesbian students in my school, I’ve faced discrimination throughout my life. From hushed slurs to blatant homophobia, it’s a familiar, though undeserved, part of my life. However, one of the most challenging moments of my journey through identity occurred in 7th grade. I had recently seen the musical “The Prom,” a show that resonated with me as a lesbian who has also confronted in-school discrimination. Inspired by the show, I wore a merchandise shirt I bought at the show that read “We’re All Lesbians” to school on September 25th, 2019. My excitement was cut short when, in second period, I was called to the office and issued a dress code violation. Initially, my shirt was deemed inappropriate, and the office cited the dress code’s clauses on hate speech and sexual innuendos. Devastated and entirely uncomfortable, I called my mother, who was in class at the time. I spent the next two periods in the office waiting for her. When she arrived, we spoke with the Principal and Guidance Counselors together. As soon as we pointed out that their violation was homophobic, they went back on their statement. Instead, they claimed I was dress-coded to protect me from potential harassment due to the word “lesbian” on my shirt. I was furious. I had been discriminated against and had my education disrupted only for them to defend it under the guise of protection. After being advised to attend a Board of Education meeting, my mother posted about the incident on Facebook. Before the meeting, we conducted an experiment: a friend of mine, also a lesbian, borrowed the shirt and wore it to the other middle school in our district. She not only received praise but wore it on a day that they had an assembly on LGBTQ+ rights presented by Garden State Equality. At the Board of Education meeting, the members condemned the dress code violation I received. As a result, students and I organized a protest at our middle school. With the help of several others, we created shirts and papers reading the same “We’re All Lesbians” message and wore them to school. On the day of the protest, the principal set up a lunchtime meeting where he acknowledged the mistake and promised to make decisions in the future to foster a more accepting environment. Multiple news outlets reached out to hear my story, but my main concern was always to show that no student should be silence by those in positions of power. Standing up against the dress code was my way of saying it wasn’t right. What struck me the most was when someone told me they found the courage to come out to their friends because of my story. It made me realize that by standing up for what I believe in, I could make a positive impact on the world. This challenge was tough, given the very public hatred I received directed at my identity, but knowing that I inspired others made it worthwhile.
    Good People, Cool Things Scholarship
    since I was very young, my passion has been for art. I have been writing “artist” and later on “freelance illustrator and game developer” on every paper asking me what I wish to be when I grow up. Although countless people have told me that this is a silly dream, one that isn’t worth it as I will only fail or be poor, I have not backed down; because to me, this is a realistic dream as it is a huge part of my existence. I am a honored member in my school’s National Art Honors Society as well as our Art Club. Furthermore, I am a member of my school’s National Honors Society and a board member of the ASL Club. I was a finalist for a poster contest and have even won an honorable mention in my regional awards for Scholastic Art and Writing! As an artist, I would identify myself as someone who pushes boundaries. I would say my art is always very fluid in a way. I don’t limit myself with posing but I also don’t stray away from geometric shapes to go with the roundness of your style. I find myself being very color focused and could probably never use the same sort of palette twice. My diverse color usage has brought me vibrant and very stylistic art. Furthermore, I try many different things. Even if I don’t like a medium or find myself having difficulties in it, I always challenge myself. I’m very detail oriented when it matters as to our just an extra touch on my artwork. In general, an artist, I see myself as someone who is passionate about expressing emotions while still keeping in things that I enjoy. Whenever someone is to ask me what I want my art to do, I always tell them the same answer. “I want to make people feel things.” In many cases, I do try to express happiness and joy, but as I’ve grown, my art has become more complex. Currently I’m exploring abstract emotions within my art such as grief and alienation. I’ve also further been studying my anatomy and realism to try to get a grasp on it and diversify my palette in a way. In three years, I see myself as an art college student. I hope that I will be currently working on my studies as well as that I have some game or comic uploaded or in progress at the time. My current game that I am working on should by that time be public. I also hope that I will have freelance illustration work at that time. I am honestly so excited to get into a college and get anxious just thinking about where I could be in three years! When it comes to ten years from now, I hope to be a part of a game development or animation company as a character designer and writer possibly. I want to be able to present my work in different ways. I also hope that I will be an alumni from whatever college I had graduated from and be able to help other aspiring art students to show them that success is possible. My identity as an artist is something I’ve been curating since childhood and I am so excited to develop myself and my art career more.
    Reginald Kelley Scholarship
    My name is Justice Cillo-Smith and since I was very young, my passion has been for art. I have been writing “artist” and later on “freelance illustrator and game developer” on every paper asking me what I wish to be when I grow up. Although countless people have told me that this is a silly dream, one that isn’t worth it as I will only fail or be poor, I have not backed down; because to me, this is a realistic dream as it is a huge part of my existence. I am a honored member in my school’s National Art Honors Society as well as our Art Club. Furthermore, I am a member of my school’s National Honors Society and a board member of the ASL Club. I was a finalist for a poster contest and have even won an honorable mention in my regional awards for Scholastic Art and Writing! On a full ride scholarship, I attended Moore College of Art and Design’s Summer Art and Design Institute (SADI) in 2023. As an artist, I would identify myself as someone who pushes boundaries. I would say my art is always very fluid in a way. I don’t limit myself with posing but I also don’t stray away from geometric shapes to go with the roundness of your style. I find myself being very color focused and could probably never use the same sort of palette twice. My diverse color usage has brought me vibrant and very stylistic art. Furthermore, I try many different things. Even if I don’t like a medium or find myself having difficulties in it, I always challenge myself. I’m very detail oriented when it matters as to our just an extra touch on my artwork. In general, an artist, I see myself as someone who is passionate about expressing emotions while still keeping in things that I enjoy. Whenever someone is to ask me what I want my art to do, I always tell them the same answer. “I want to make people feel things.” In many cases, I do try to express happiness and joy, but as I’ve grown, my art has become more complex. Currently I’m exploring abstract emotions within my art such as grief and alienation. I’ve also further been studying my anatomy and realism to try to get a grasp on it and diversify my palette in a way. In three years from now, I see myself as an art college student. I hope that I will be currently working on my studies as well as that I have some game or comic uploaded or in progress at the time. My current game that I am working on should by that time be public. I also hope that I will have freelance illustration work at that time. I am honestly so excited to get into a college and get anxious just thinking about where I could be in three years! When it comes to ten years from now, I hope to be a part of a game development or animation company as a character designer and writer possibly. I want to be able to present my work in different ways. I also hope that I will be an alumni from whatever college I had graduated from and be able to help other aspiring art students to show them that success is possible. My identity as an artist is something I’ve been curating since childhood and I am so excited to develop myself and my art career more.
    PRIDE in Education Award
    As one of the few openly lesbian students in my school, I’ve faced discrimination throughout my life. From hushed slurs to blatant homophobia, it’s a familiar, though undeserved, part of my life. However, one of the most challenging moments of my journey through identity occurred in 7th grade. I had recently seen the musical “The Prom,” a show that resonated with me as a lesbian who has also confronted in-school discrimination. Inspired by the show, I wore a merchandise shirt I bought at the show that read “We’re All Lesbians” to school on September 25th, 2019. My excitement was cut short when, in second period, I was called to the office and issued a dress code violation. Initially, my shirt was deemed inappropriate, and the office cited the dress code’s clauses on hate speech and sexual innuendos. Devastated and entirely uncomfortable, I called my mother, who was in class at the time. I spent the next two periods in the office waiting for her. When she arrived, we spoke with the Principal and Guidance Counselors together. As soon as we pointed out that their violation was homophobic, they went back on their statement. Instead, they claimed I was dress-coded to protect me from potential harassment due to the word “lesbian” on my shirt. I was furious. I had been discriminated against and had my education disrupted only for them to defend it under the guise of protection. After being advised to attend a Board of Education meeting, my mother posted about the incident on Facebook. Before the meeting, we conducted an experiment: a friend of mine, also a lesbian, borrowed the shirt and wore it to the other middle school in our district. She not only received praise but wore it on a day that they had an assembly on LGBTQ+ rights presented by Garden State Equality. At the Board of Education meeting, the members condemned the dress code violation I received. As a result, students and I organized a protest at our middle school. With the help of several others, we created shirts and papers reading the same “We’re All Lesbians” message and wore them to school. On the day of the protest, the principal set up a lunchtime meeting where he acknowledged the mistake and promised to make decisions in the future to foster a more accepting environment. Multiple news outlets reached out to hear my story, but my main concern was always to show that no student should be silence by those in positions of power. Standing up against the dress code was my way of saying it wasn’t right. What struck me the most was when someone told me they found the courage to come out to their friends because of my story. It made me realize that by standing up for what I believe in, I could make a positive impact on the world. This challenge was tough, given the very public hatred I received directed at my identity, but knowing that I inspired others made it worthwhile.
    @ESPdaniella Disabled Degree Scholarship
    Throughout my life, I have been forced to constantly navigate the obstacles that my disabilities (POTs and PFS) have presented. Whether it be navigating the realities of ableism within the education system or having to deal with chronic pain that leaves it nearly impossible to continue my schoolwork, I have become accustomed to the way the world is not created for disabled people. Despite certain narratives pushing for disabled people to be inspirational, I feel I fell short in this stereotype. I am not inspirational to able-bodied people. Instead, I want to be inspirational to the disabled community. Through my art, I have always hoped to express my struggles through creativity. Although it may not be a story of navigating the world the same as an able-bodied person would, I have felt as though I create beauty from my experiences. In the realm of disability, I envision a movement where more individuals seize the opportunity to tell their stories through art. It's not just about creating stunning pieces; it's about breaking barriers and empowering a community to embrace the beauty within their narratives. I hope to be a voice of a group that is underrepresented within the artistic community.
    Elijah's Helping Hand Scholarship Award
    As one of the few openly lesbian students in my school, I’ve faced discrimination throughout my life. From hushed slurs to blatant homophobia, it’s a familiar, though undeserved, part of my life. However, one of the most challenging moments of my journey through identity occurred in 7th grade. I had recently seen the musical “The Prom,” a show that resonated with me as a lesbian who has also confronted in-school discrimination. Inspired by the show, I wore a merchandise shirt I bought at the show that read “We’re All Lesbians” to school on September 25th, 2019. My excitement was cut short when, in second period, I was called to the office and issued a dress code violation. Initially, my shirt was deemed inappropriate, and the office cited the dress code’s clauses on hate speech and sexual innuendos. Devastated and entirely uncomfortable, I called my mother, who was in class at the time. I spent the next two periods in the office waiting for her. When she arrived, we spoke with the Principal and Guidance Counselors together. As soon as we pointed out that their violation was homophobic, they went back on their statement. Instead, they claimed I was dress-coded to protect me from potential harassment due to the word “lesbian” on my shirt. I was furious. I had been discriminated against and had my education disrupted only for them to defend it under the guise of protection. After being advised to attend a Board of Education meeting, my mother posted about the incident on Facebook. Before the meeting, we conducted an experiment: a friend of mine, also a lesbian, borrowed the shirt and wore it to the other middle school in our district. She not only received praise but wore it on a day that they had an assembly on LGBTQ+ rights presented by Garden State Equality. At the Board of Education meeting, the members condemned the dress code violation I received. As a result, students and I organized a protest at our middle school. With the help of several others, we created shirts and papers reading the same “We’re All Lesbians” message and wore them to school. On the day of the protest, the principal set up a lunchtime meeting where he acknowledged the mistake and promised to make decisions in the future to foster a more accepting environment. Multiple news outlets reached out to hear my story, but my main concern was always to show that no student should be silence by those in positions of power. Standing up against the dress code was my way of saying it wasn’t right. What struck me the most was when someone told me they found the courage to come out to their friends because of my story. It made me realize that by standing up for what I believe in, I could make a positive impact on the world. This challenge was tough, given the very public hatred I received directed at my identity, but knowing that I inspired others made it worthwhile.
    Anthony McPherson Memorial Automotive Scholarship
    Terry Masters Memorial Scholarship
    The everyday world around me is a continuous source of inspiration to my artistic expression. Particularly, my unique experience and interaction with the world as a physically disabled and autistic nonbinary lesbian has always helped me to create artwork that is personal in the same way that it is relatable. I have always intended to create art that is clearly inspired by my own life but can be understood and interpreted by others who may not share similar experiences. As an artist, even outside of my own experiences, I tend to notice things that those who aren’t artists tend to overlook about our world. From the interplay with light and dark in the sunlight beaming through the trees to the intricacies in the expression of human emotion. Nature has always been a source of inspiration for my art as well, especially the natural relationships between animals and plants. I have always been fascinated by the metaphorical nature of certain types of relationships in the world. My identity and personal journey add depth to my artwork, allowing me to explore different themes of diversity, identity, and the human experience. I aspire to amplify the voices of those who are marginalized and disprivileged such as myself through my artwork. I see art as a powerful tool to nurture empathy and understanding. My main hope with my art is that everyone, no matter their background, may feel something when they look at it. Each day I am alive I am surrounded by new layers of inspiration from the world around me. I attempt to translate my discoveries onto paper in a way that not only represents my own perspective but also reflects the broader human experience.
    Bold.org x Forever 21 Scholarship + Giveaway
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