Success with scholarships

Art students collectively receive over two million dollars in scholarship for their art


Photo by and used with the permission ofKristen LaJeunesse

Niya Katsarska, senior, poses with her exhibited art.

Sophia Babcock, Magazine Editor in Chief

Each year, numerous high school art students across the country have the opportunity to apply for scholarships. This year, senior art students at LZHS collectively received more than two million dollars in scholarship money.

“It really is life changing,” Kristen LaJeunesse, AP and honors art teacher, said. “[These scholarships put] student artists and designers in schools that they might not have had access to or even knew about, [or] could afford.”

According to LaJeunesse, nine seniors each submitted a portfolio containing multiple pieces that they created throughout their high school career to different organizations, one being a non-profit called Art Connected.

“Underneath (Art eConnected) [is made of] a variety of different exhibitions. One of them is our regional show, so they call that the Northern Regional exhibition. Another one is the senior scholarship exhibition. And then there’s also a Southern Illinois regional exhibition. Most of the art students submit to the senior scholarship,” LaJeunesse said.

The students received money from multiple schools and art programs across the country. LaJeunesse says the recipients surpassed her goal which was “to reach the million dollar mark.”

“[At the] million dollar mark, you get awarded at this ceremony. You get certificates and stuff. [In past years] we were close. We were so close. But this year, I opened up this email and it’s not that we hit the one million dollar mark, but that we hit it two and a half times,” LaJeunesse said excitedly. “It was two and a half million dollars, and probably more because more scholarships actually came in after the fact and I don’t think they were recorded. So we’re probably at about 3 million.”

The art scholarships helped students gain confidence in their abilities, according to Dani Morquecho, recipient. Morquecho says that seeing the scholarship offers from different schools was “very reassuring that I’m doing something right, and that I’m going somewhere with my art.”

“I was really surprised because I didn’t think my art was good. I thought it was kind of just something for me that I enjoy doing,” Morquecho said. “I kind of took a shot in the dark doing this because [anything I] submitted to IHSA before was never selected. This was my last [chance] and I was like, ‘let’s just do it see how it goes.’” 

Niya Katsarska, recipient, received the Top 20 Scholarship Award, and her artwork was selected to be exhibited at the Chicago Bridge Art Center. Katsarska says she was also nervous to submit her art “because it’s really competitive. Even if you think you’re good there’s always someone a little bit better than you. Having my [work] exhibited and having people tell me I’m worth something felt really validating,” Katsarska said. I always pictured myself doing something [pertaining to art] but was unsure about it. A couple years ago, I would have never shown my work to anyone, and  would have never thought about entering competitions, and putting myself out there. The scholarship] kind of reinforced [my belief that] I can do something with my art.”

According to the recipients, they did not achieve their success all by themselves as they accredit teachers, LaJeunesse and Matt Winkleman, art teacher, who have guided them throughout high school.

In the program, the art teachers “have so many opportunities for artists at a high school level like the presentations. I attended those, and it was really eye opening to see career choices for artists,” Annabelle Pinto, recipient, said. 

“Of course your art teacher thinks your work is great,” LaJeunesse said. “You know and work with them for four years or two years or even a semester and you just see all of that and you see it grow into something. Then you see their confidence build and then you start connecting it to what they can contribute to society and what society needs from them [as artists].”