2020 winners announced at the Hillsborough County Region Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

The creative talents of Hillsborough County Public Schools students shined at the 2020 Hillsborough Region Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, presented by Suncoast Credit Union. The annual event highlights the work of local middle and high school students and is hosted by Hillsborough Education Foundation, Hillsborough County Public Schools and The University of Tampa College of Arts and Letters.

Click here to watch the video from the event.

“We are celebrating our 13-year olds, all the way up to high school students who have submitted their art and writing for Hillsborough County’s Regional Scholastic Art and Writing Awards,” said Erin Saladino, Hillsborough County Public Schools K-12 Art Education Supervisor.

Students submitted more pieces for regional judging than ever with 553 writing entries and 23 writing portfolios from 297 students along with 1,618 art entries and 48 art portfolios from 706 students.

There are no restrictions on the subject matter—students have freedom of expression.

“Students are encouraged to follow their heart, their voice and present their originality on paper—or in other mediums in the case of artwork,” said Elizabeth Brown, Hillsborough County Public Schools Secondary Language Arts Supervisor.

The entries are judged on originality, technique and emergence of a personal vision or voice.

“We had more than 2,000 combined writing and art pieces that our judges—who are both local and community members, as well as national judges—had the hard task of narrowing down,” explained Saladino.

Regional judges selected 278 art awards and 174 writing awards, including:

  • 93 Gold Key Awards
  • 144 Silver Key Awards
  • 215 Honorable Mentions

“The Gold Key is the highest regional award. From there all those regional Gold Keys will be judged at the national level and some will be selected for national medals,” Brown said.

From the Gold Key Awards, judges selected 5 American Visions Nominees for art:

  • Ariana Hill, Blake High
  • Akshita Mathur, Berkeley Prep
  • Samacha Nerginn, Lennard High
  • Sammi Parker, Blake High
  • Alesha Smith, Blake High

and 5 American Voices Nominees for writing:

  • Sarah Frank, Blake High School
  • Zhaedyn Hodge Sigars, Blake High School
  • Clara Jergins, Berkeley Preparatory School
  • Sarina Patel, Carrollwood Day School
  • Mara Xiong, Berkeley Preparatory School

“Students are then able to go to the national ceremony at Carnegie Hall—where the Empire State Building is lit up in gold on that evening. It’s just an amazing opportunity to celebrate them at the national level,” said Saladino.

Samacha Nerginn, a Lennard High School Senior, has been a Gold Key and American Visions Nominee three years in a row for her artwork.

“Art to me is a creative outlet. This is a portrait I made last year. It was inspired by a lot of the cartoons that I grew up watching. It feels really good—I put in a lot of work into it. I’m glad I can share it with people and other people appreciate my artwork,” said Nerginn.

Blake High School Senior Zhaedyn Hodge Sigars, who was recognized as a Gold Key winner and American Voices nominee, is also a nationally recognized orator.  He represented the state of Florida at the Poetry Out Loud National competition in 2019 put on by the National Endowment for the Arts. Earlier this month he won once again at the state level and will advance to compete on the national level.

Check out photos from the event on our Facebook page.