Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

100 Years of Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Alumni: Jessica ‘Jessi’ Belich

pgodbole  //  Apr 27, 2023

100 Years of Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Alumni: Jessica ‘Jessi’ Belich

Welcome back to our blog series dedicated to spotlighting those who have participated in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards over the program’s past 100 years. Every week leading up to the national Awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall in June, we will be sharing the stories of some of the program’s incredible alumni whose lives have been impacted by the Awards.

This week we’d like to introduce you to Jessica ‘Jessi’ Belich, an art teacher at West High School in Wauwatosa, WI.

A shy, introverted teen, Jessi learned how to draw in her freshman year art class, describing it as a way for a “really quiet kid to have a big voice.” Her art teacher persuaded her to submit one of her still lifes to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and, much to her surprise, she was recognized nationally. This recognition had a profound impact on Jessi—she decided then and there that she would become an art teacher to help other kids feel the same way she felt when creating art and receiving that validation. It also motivated her to stay with her school’s art program for the rest of her high school career. By the time she graduated, Jessi was recognized by the Awards multiple times for her achievements in art and photography, receiving a total of four regional gold key awards.

After graduation, Jessi attended the Maryland Institute, College of Art to continue pursuing her passion. Five years and two degrees later, Jessi moved back to Wisconsin, secured her Master Educator’s License, and has been coaching her art students and helping them submit to the Awards ever since.

For Jessi, her primary goal as an arts educator is to ensure West High School’s art department is a “home away from home,” where students feel supported and safe. Jessi believes that the Awards are a way for her students to learn and grow as budding artists, since they can experience a range of emotions when it comes to submitting their work each year. Her job, she says, is to help her students deal with rejection and learn how to improve their craft to gain confidence and even earn scholarships.

“The Awards have become a tool to help show students who don’t seem as connected elsewhere that they are good enough to submit their work. Everything about the experience is valuable for them, especially having a complete stranger review their work and validate it so that they may grow more confident in their abilities.”

From an administrative perspective, Jessi curates a presentation every time any of her students win a Scholastic Art Award to share with the school board so they can see firsthand the great work stemming from her art department. These presentations are crucial for securing funding for her program, and she credits the Awards as pivotal since they may lead to national recognition for her school district.

It is without a doubt that the Awards made a tremendous impact on Jessi from a young age, and she recognizes that she was lucky enough to have found her calling as a teen. She’s grateful to not only have found a way to help other young artists submit to the Awards, but also to grow and learn as she progresses in her career.

“Scholastic has been in my life since I was a teenager, and it’s a great program. I can’t say enough about it!”

To learn more about the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, please visit And be sure to return to On Our Minds next week for our next alumni spotlight!

Images in the body: Courtesy of Jessi Belich