The student news site of Jones College Prep High School


The student news site of Jones College Prep High School


The student news site of Jones College Prep High School


Empowering youth voices

Jones student nominated for prestigious American Voices Award
Photo Credits: Olivia Pucylowski

Jones student Olivia Pucylowski ‘24 becomes one of five students in Cook County to be nominated for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards’ nationally-recognized American Voices Award.

The Scholastic Awards aim to celebrate talented, creative young artists who embody originality, skill, and showcase a personal voice or vision in their work. Across the nation, five students from each region are selected as nominees for the American Voices award, a prestigious honor within the Scholastic Awards given to one student from each region who demonstrates an original, authentic voice.

“[The Scholastic Awards] are pretty well known as far as supporting young artists. Sylvia Plath won the Art and Writings award when she was younger and Stephen King too on the national level,” said Olivia Pucylowski ‘24, a recent Scholastic Art & Writing gold key recipient and nominee for the American Voices award. “I was one of the five people [nominated for the American Voices award] and they asked me to read [my short story] at their exhibition at Columbia College last week.”

The exhibitions led by the Scholastic Awards provide nominees the chance to share their writing alongside other young creatives, an opportunity Pucylowski found inspiring and helpful in envisioning a career in writing.

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“It was interesting to be at an art show where I was having work presented for the first time and it was cool to be in an environment with young creatives,” said Pucylowski. “I think it’s also interesting to perhaps imagine myself doing that in the future.” 

When considering what made her piece stand out from the thousands of other submissions, Pucylowski believes authenticity may have played a role.

“I was quite surprised when I won the award. I think maybe the American Voices tries to highlight unique American teen experiences, and I wrote about my grandmother who passed away recently, so I think that it was vulnerable and they liked [the vulnerability].”

The Scholastic Awards offer scholarships awarding up to $12,500 for National Medalists. As a graduating senior about to go off to college, the Scholastic Awards’ generous scholarships inspired Pucylowski to send in her writing to the contest.

“There’s a lot of these really small writing awards or contests for teens and my motivation was to see if I could get some sort of scholarship money,” said Pucylowski. “But it was also cool to get recognition since it’s the first time that I’ve entered a creative contest,” said Pucylowski.

Pucylowski encourages students who may be interested in submitting their pieces to the Scholastic Awards or similar creative contests to be confident in submitting their work, regardless of any self-doubt or perceived imperfections.

“There’s a couple of deadlines that I missed that I probably could have sent something I had already worked on, but I thought it wasn’t good enough to,” said Pucylowski. “So, submit anything you can, because perhaps it’s more likely than you think to win.”

With Chicago being a hotspot for artistry and creative opportunities, Pucylowski encourages young creatives to take advantage of every opportunity they can. 

“There’s a lot of small Chicago-based writers that have foundations and they have money that they award to young writers…so there’s just a lot of opportunities, especially in Chicago,” said Pucylowski. “So, if someone is interested in that or just looking to save some money for college, just do it because you might win!” 

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Leilani Freire '24
Leilani Freire '24, Journalism III

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