VAL JETT, Tête-à-Tête, Drawing & Illustration. Grade 12, Atherton High School, Louisville, KY.

VAL JETT, Tête-à-Tête, Drawing & Illustration. Grade 12, Atherton High School, Louisville, KY. The Maurice R. Robinson Fund Art Portfolio

This week, our showcase of the 2020 Gold Medal Portfolio recipients—a prestigious honor that includes a $10,000 scholarship—moves to students Val Jett and Luz Manunga. Val decided to use self-portraits to explore themes of love, beauty, and confidence. Through her writing, Luz has discovered that being true to yourself allows you to be more honest with others and to connect with people no matter the barriers between you.

Val Jett

“This exploration of self-love is important to me because, for a long time, I didn’t like the way that I looked. Creating self-portraits helped me accept and love the parts of my face that I previously thought were unattractive…After viewing my portfolio, I hope that people will walk away with a better understanding of what self-love really is. I want their idea of self-love to be further away from narcissism or vanity, and be closer to self-respect and confidence.”

VAL JETT, Infatuation, Drawing & Illustration. Grade 12, Atherton High School, Louisville, KY.

VAL JETT, Infatuation, Drawing & Illustration. Grade 12, Atherton High School, Louisville, KY. The Maurice R. Robinson Fund Art Portfolio

Luz Manunga

“Writing, to me, is about encapsulating pure honesty… Being able to be true with yourself leads to more authentic relationships with the self, and other people. With the help of my writing, I have become completely true to who I am, and by continuing this, I know I will be able to reach even more people through my honest expression of self.”

Es Mi Cali Bella
Poetry, Grade 12, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Jacksonville, FL. The New York Times Writing Portfolio

Es mi Cali bella.
Es as in is, as in being—
to be. To be my

Mi, my, mine— possessive.
An ownership of something;
something I should be proud of, like
Mi, my tongue. But instead,
mi, my tongue buries languages
at a sea mi, my tongue recognizes as spit.
It crashes roman letters against clenched teeth holding
back on words like

Cali. Cali, Cali, mi, my faraway home
Cali, Colombia: where mi, my family was born,
where my family were killed, or peacefully
died in their beds, hands over chest, and buried at church.
And yet, we still celebrate. We clap along
to the bachata music on the bustling streets
like we’re praying. The loud happiness, and
the people are

Bella, beautiful. I see so many
people speaking—
singing bella, beautiful songs
that I can’t repeat.
I cut and sew each part of their bella,
beautiful mouths in place of mi, mine
and stitch their tongue against mi, my jaw.
I try to finish the song,
but I stay in silence.

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