The Book of Life, Patricia Baena, Photography. St Margaret’s Episcopal School, San Juan Capistrano, CA. 
Amanda Albanese, Educator. Gold Key

2020. It has been a YEAR, to say the least. In a time of such uncertainty, one thing was certain—that young people would rise to the occasion and illuminate a path towards hope through their art. And rise they did!

From September through December, tens of thousands of young artists and writers in our Region-at-Large program—along with their support system of educators, parents, and guardians—put hours of work and passion into the 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Hundreds of talented jurors from across the country—including educators, artists, published authors, and so many more—spent the winter reviewing and appreciating every piece entered to the Awards. And now, we are ready to celebrate the fruits of that labor…

Happy Regional Award Announcement Day!

The 2021 Region-at-Large Scholastic Art & Writing Awards received entries from more than 100,000 teens, and we have been amazed by the amount of talent and artistic vision. Congratulations to every young person who elected to share their creativity and voice with the Scholastic Awards this year—that alone is a huge accomplishment, and we thank you for taking the leap. The world needs it!

RAL jurors joined us from partner organizations around the country to tackle the challenging task of choosing which of the incredible entries would receive an Honorable Mention, Silver Key, or Gold Key Award. Every year the decisions are difficult, and this year was no different. Thank you to all our jurors for their expertise and dedication to this year’s Awards. We couldn’t have done it without you! Take a moment to meet some of your amazing jurors.

We would like to offer a special congratulations to all RAL winners, and an additional good luck to our RAL Gold Key and American Voices & Visions Nominees whose pieces will be considered for awards at the national level. We could not be more proud to have you representing our RAL community to the nation!

What did jurors have to say?

We asked our jurors for feedback based on their experience this year. Here’s what they had to say!

What did we love?

  • How national and global events of 2020 influenced students’ works. It served as a wonderful reminder that art and writing is a great way for students to share their feelings.
  • Diverse pieces about personal struggles that rang true and had great emotional impact.
  • Original art that had creative ways to express their themes.
  • The depth, thoughtfulness, and diversity of student expression.

Tips for future submissions


A sample of DIY judging paddles created by our talented RAL jurors, courtesy of the Lewistown Art Center.
  • Try having someone else read your work aloud to you before you decide whether or not it is complete.
  • There are times to utilize SAT vocabulary words, but it’s not necessary to use them in every sentence. Writing often thrives on feeling and rhythm—sometimes, clunky vocabulary does more to distract than enhance.
  • Do not shy away from structure, formatting, and consistency! How the words appear on the page is important. Make sure your work appears exactly as you wish the reader to see it on the page.
  • Works that are able to utilize both beautiful writing and description and strong thematic elements or commentary often stand out the most.
  • Be patient with yourself and your story—right to the end. Be careful not to hurry the ending and drop your reader too suddenly—we want to hang on and understand all the way through. Keep writing!
  • For those creating Writing Portfolios, be sure to include a Personal Statement and Artist Statement! They can provide vital context to the work, as well as inform jurors of your artistic process, all which helps to make your work stand out.


A concentrated group of jurors from the Virginia Musuem of Contemporary Art evaluating RAL art submissions.
  • Be sure you know what category you’re selecting for your artwork. While there are often grey areas between categories, take the time to consider where your work fits best. It may help your work be judged more accurately and have a higher chance of advancing in another category.
  • The pieces that succeeded the most often had simple and brief, yet powerful artist statements. These tend to do better than artworks with too lengthy of statements where lots of explaining is required to make sense of the piece.
  • Image quality and clarity is key! It is difficult to judge works if we aren’t able to see the art very well. For example, if you create a massive installation piece, consider including both macro and close-up images so jurors can experience the full scope of the work. Take care to make sure the picture(s) of your work are clear, focused, and high quality.
  • There were many observant and timely pieces about current events this year that stood out! Ultimately what counts is that the work displays a strong sense of originality, personality, and vision.

Celebrating our RAL American Voices & Visions Nominees!

Once again this year, RAL regions each selected five students in art and writing as American Voices & Visions Nominees. These works were carefully selected as the most standout pieces in the region. All nominees will be considered at the national level for an American Voices & Visions Medal. The final medalists will be honored in a star-studded National Ceremony!

Below are just a few of the amazing works being considered for an American Voices & Visions Medal. Congratulations and good luck to all of our nominees!

Previewing our American Visions Nominees

Previewing our American Voices Nominees

How can I see who won an Award?

If you are a student who entered the Awards…

Log in to your student dashboard to see if you won an Award! All Award recipients will see an option to download a digital congratulatory letter and certificate from the main page of their dashboard. These downloads will be available until March 16, 2021. To see a full list of Award recipients in your region and more information about award materials, check out your regional web page by searching your school’s zip code here.

If you are an educator with students who entered the Awards…

Log in to your educator dashboard and click the link that says “Regional Award Certificates and Notification Letters.” Here, you will be able to access all of the congratulatory letters and certificates for students connected with your account who received an award. Visit your regional web page for more information about what your Award recipients can expect.

If you don’t have an account and are just curious…

Search for Award recipients in your area looking up your area’s regional web page here.

What’s next?

March 4 – RAL Virtual Ceremony

From now through March 4, join us every other week on the blog to preview Gold Key works as we get pumped for the first ever virtual regional celebration! Save the date by registering here to join us for a virtual ceremony on March 4 to celebrate all our regional award winners!

March 17 – National Award Announcement Day

To all of our Gold Key Award winners and American Voices & Visions Nominees, stay tuned for National Award Announcement Day on March 17. Over the next few weeks, scores of writers and artists from around the country will review the highest-awarded regional works in consideration for National Medals. On March 17, check or your dashboard to see our 2021 National Medalists!

For all students who entered the Awards, keep creating this year! The new projects you’re exploring this spring are eligible for the 2022 Awards—hang onto them until September when you can start entering again. Check back in on the RAL blog over the summer to participate in our Start.Write.Now competition and share your latest and greatest creations. We can’t wait to see what you do next!

Looking for more opportunities to be recognized? Students of African descent are invited to participate in local and national ACT-SO competitions! NAACP’s ACT-SO is a community-based program that provides forum for youth of African descent to receive recognition for their achievements in academics, literary arts, visual arts, and the sciences.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are open for entries annually from September through December. See upcoming important dates to learn more about what’s next for the Awards.

One response to “Congratulations to our 2021 Regional Award Winners!”

  1. The Launch of the 2022 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards – Region-at-Large Avatar

    […] Dive into more advice for art and writing submission from jurors here! […]


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