The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards’ national office in New York City is dedicated to growing and supporting our Affiliate Partners across the country. Our Affiliate Partners are doing great work in their communities, and we love hearing about their outreach efforts, their students, and their programs. This month, we shine the spotlight on the Harris County Department of Education in Texas, which manages the Harris County Art & Writing regions. Here’s what program coordinator Andrea Segraves at HCDE had to say about Awards activity in her region:
Creative teens in Harris County live in the third largest county in the nation, situated with Houston in its epicenter. Our spacious county is 60 square miles in diameter, so getting around to all the 25 school districts and numerous charter and private schools takes some time. Getting the word out about Scholastic Art & Writing is a task in itself with 6,000 eligible schools.
As an Affiliate Partner, Harris County Department of Education provides services to our 25 school districts, including all the teachers in Harris County.
In 2016, we experienced a record number of entries: 7,256. (Compare this to 2,500 entries five years ago!) This year, we are reaching out to our local universities/colleges as well as museums and professional organizations to recruit volunteers to judge even more entries.
The school trustees, who are decision-makers for our department, and our leader, Harris County School Superintendent James Colbert, select several art pieces to purchase from our artists each year. We also give monetary awards to our writers. Over the 13 years we have had the honor of being an Affiliate Partner, we’ve amassed quite a collection which occupies walls in several buildings. This year, we will create a central gallery of that work in a space in our conference center which is visited by 10,000 educators annually.
As coordinator, I created an online journal of last year’s events and milestones using video, photos, and text. The journal is helpful in communicating our regional and national story to teachers, students, parents, and our community—even the media. Feedback has been positive, so we will continue updating the journal for the 2017 program year.
Here are some other home-grown ideas which might prove beneficial to other regions:
- Providing resources through electronic newsletters, such as editable documents which can be used to train other teachers.
- Launching webinars to train newbies to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and for training jurors and moderators.
- Cultivating partnerships with local artists and fine arts venues to create more public exposure for teen artists and writers. We’ve held two gallery shows with opportunities for both artists and writers.
- Sharing reports to let educators know details about entries. This resulted in creating a goal to reach out to more minority students.
- Creating online communities for district affiliates to ask questions and share resources.
HCDE would like to thank members of our regional and national community who value and support student expression through art and writing. Being a part of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards family enriches our lives, and we can’t imagine a world without it.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are proud to work with organizations like the Harris County Department of Education to help talented students receive recognition for their creative efforts. By partnering together, the Harris County Department of Education and the Scholastic Awards give our youth the support they need to become lasting members of their art and writing communities.