Urim Apocalypse. Lincoln. Grade 8, Age 12. 2011 Gold Key, Drawing.

It’s often difficult to fully grasp the substantial impact of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Every year, as thousands upon thousands of middle and high school students enter the competition, amazing stories of personal journeys, creativity, and recognition emerge. This is one of those stories.

Urim Apocalypse is an unusually talented student with an unusual name. He came to the United States in 2010 after fleeing Africa as a refugee. He was born and grew up in Congo, and moved to Ethiopia for four years before coming to America. It was in Ethiopia that he began to learn English. But when he moved to Aurora, Colorado in the fall of 2010, the then 12-year-old was still learning the language.

Amazingly, though Urim was initially placed in 7th grade classes at East Middle School, he quickly proved that they were not challenging enough for him. So he was moved to 8th grade and started art class with teacher Jennifer Knowles. It was the first time Urim was exposed to art, and it was obvious to Knowles that he was a natural.

“No training, no lessons,” Knowles said. “I’ve never seen a kid as talented as he is come through my doors before.”

When Urim created a drawing of President Abraham Lincoln, Knowles knew she had to include it in her submissions to the 2011 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. And the rest, as they say, is history. The piece won a Gold Key, was part of an exhibit at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design (RMCAD), and went on to the National level.

“Stories like Urim’s are why we support the Scholastic Awards program at the level we do,” Karen Wachtel, Director of Communications at RMCAD—which hosts the program at the regional level in Colorado—said. “The ability to help change students’ lives and recognize their talent and creativity is one we take great joy in, and we can’t wait for the people, work and stories that each year brings.”

Learn more about the work that RMCAD does to support creative teens as a Scholastic Awards’ Regional Affiliate here.

Urim (second from left) receiving his regional award certificate at the 2013 Colorado Art Regional Scholastic Awards ceremony.

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Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design is a private, fully accredited school, founded in 1963, offering BFAs, BAs, and MAs in a variety of art and design disciplines. RMCAD is a community of creatives, dedicated to the individualized success of each of their students. With a unique combination of freedom and support, they help each artist or designer who comes to campus find their voice, discover their path, and thrive.

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