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Jenna September has never been on a road trip across America.

In fact, the 18-year-old Chaska High School student spent most of her life in South Africa, where she was born. September moved to the Clover Ridge neighborhood in 2016 and, after reading a friend’s short story about driving across the United States, was inspired.

The teen began drawing five girls preparing to take a trip across America on her tablet. The cartoon-like piece represents what she hopes will be a future trip with her friends after graduating, September said.

The piece, called “Road Trip,” took a month to complete and is now nominated for an American Voices & Visions medal, one of Scholastic Art and Writing Awards’ highest honors. Only five are selected each year from Minnesota for the medal, said Chaska High School Art Teacher Christina Keith, who teaches September.

In the painting, there are girls of various ethnicities. One sitting on the ground has a map in front of her, two others paint the group’s big green van, another with purple hair hangs her head out of the driver seat window, and a girl with long curly black hair lounges on top of the vehicle with a radio and coffee nearby.

“They’re a diverse group of girls,” September said. “It is representative of what I was used to, my group of friends as well and people of different cultures.”


The American Voices and Visions medal is given out by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and a panel of judges in New York City will award the medal to the best of the five pieces.

“Panelists look for works that best exemplify originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal voice or vision,” according to the Scholastic Awards website. Last year, nearly 350,000 original works were submitted to the nonprofit in 29 different art and writing categories, according to the organization’s website.

“Road Trip” was also recognized as one of the best pieces at the statewide level of the competition and was given a Gold Key regional award, along with five of September’s other pieces and two art portfolios. Those will be considered for a Gold Medal on the national stage, which recognizes the “most outstanding works in the nation.” Five other Chaska High School students also received the Gold Key regional awards. Those who win will be recognized at a national ceremony in Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Additionally, three of September’s other submissions received Silver Key regional awards and two honorable mentions. Those with state level awards will be recognized at the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum on Saturday.

“It’s rare for us to have a student who receives that many awards,” said Keith, who now teaches September in AP Art

“She’s motivated, dedicated and hard working,” she added. “I’m so happy to see her get positive recognition, she deserves it so much.”

September’s family, who live in the Clover Ridge neighborhood, were ecstatic when they learned she won the awards, September said.

“They support me going to art school and they were excited this was something I could get out of it,” she said.


September started drawing when she was a young child.

“I started when I was really young, and when you start as a kid you don’t really stop,” she said, adding she began taking art classes at an art center in South Africa. Besides digital drawing, September also likes to use watercolors and acrylic paints.

Of her award winning pieces this year, five were digital art pieces, three were submitted under the drawing and illustration category, and three were paintings.

When September first attended Chaska High School, she was known in the art department for her work, Keith said. In the classroom, she noticed September had advanced knowledge of technical skills and that each piece she created had a deliberate purpose and message.

September is open to using any material and created her own independent study on character design.

“She’s really independent and creates really beautiful watercolor and acrylic work,” Keith said.

When September graduates high school in June, she plans on pursuing a degree in illustration.

“I’m interested in illustrating books or graphic novels, or concept art for video games.”

Staff Reporter

Alex Chhith is a staff reporter at the Chaska Herald. In her spare time, she enjoys walking her dogs (Cody and Sam), catching up on the Game of Thrones and finding new restaurants. Follow her on Twitter @AlexChhith.

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