I received the 2023 Diversify Science Scholarship from the Highlights Foundation!

Synchronicity

Have you heard of The Highlights Foundation? Perhaps you have seen their magazines on grocery store shelves or in doctors’ offices for kids to play with. Or maybe you get them in the mail, full of endless puzzles and entertainment for kiddos. 

I used to get these magazines as a kid, all the way in Saudi Arabia where I grew up (#militarybratlife). I would pour over the pictures, carefully tracing my way through mazes and matching up missing pieces of puzzles. I had forgotten about the magazines until about a year ago when I was perusing the children’s book section of Whole Foods. There they were, Highlights magazines for Kindergarteners, 1st graders and 2nd graders. I immediately purchased all three. 

Once home I looked through them and wondered what a picture book author could do to dial into the Highlights community. Who were the artists who made these fun puzzles? Could I contribute in some way? I logged onto social media and immediately followed @highlightsfound. I looked at their most recent post announcing scholarship applications were open

Just Go For It

I applied for as many scholarships as I could, reasoning it was just like pitching a book to agents, editors or publishing houses… a no is better than never having tried at all. If you don’t throw your name in the hat, your chances of getting picked are a definitive 0%. But… throw your name in… there will always be a possibility. 

If there is an opportunity you are interested in putting your name in the hat for, do it. If you are hesitant or feeling you might not be ready, really evaluate why. Is the opportunity going to call for too much growth? Are you overreaching? Or, are you underestimating your own potential and capacity to expand into opportunity?

Diversify Science

58 creatives were selected out of 500 applications for the 2023 scholarships, and I have the honor of being the recipient of the 2023 Diversify Science for Illustrators scholarship! Per the Highlights Foundation:

The Diversify Science Scholarship is designed to encourage the artistic growth of Indigenous, Black, and people of color who are interested in science and nature illustration.

This scholarship supports attendance at an illustration workshop offered through the Highlights Foundation. It is intended for a recipient who is actively pursuing science and nature illustration within the children’s publishing industry.

Our goal is to help open the field to more diverse creators, to provide role models for future illustrators, and to reflect a broader range of readers in children’s literature.

Why do I care about this?

According to the National Science Foundation, “underrepresented minorities… [make] up a higher share of the skilled technical workforce…than of workers who were employed in STEM occupations with at least a bachelor’s degree.” Additionally, “women [make] up about a third of people employed in STEM occupations.” 

Serving in the U.S. Air Force, as you may imagine, is a STEM heavy career path. Attending the Air Force Academy to become an officer meant no matter what major you selected, you would graduate with a Bachelors of Science due to the mandatory classes in science and engineering you had to take (to include aeronautical and astronautical engineering, the bane of my existence for two semesters. I had to calculate satellite trajectories and it felt like punishment lol).  As a creative existing within the Air Force, I often saw similarities to what the National Science Foundation describes when it came to the underrepresentation of minorities in the force. Especially in the officer ranks and in more technically oriented career fields (like pilot, for example). The Air Force is working toward increasing representation across ranks and career fields, and I am working toward doing what I can from within my own lane and talents. 

As I create literature for children, I want to ensure I leverage the entirety of my human experience as an artist, writer, Hispanic female, and Air Force officer having served in a STEM heavy career field. The next few picture book ideas I am fleshing out are all related to nature and science: mycology, marine biology, chronotypes and even… you guessed it… aviation. Will they come to fruition? Hopefully this scholarship helps me move further along the path to bringing these ideas to life. 

What’s Next?

I will be attending an in-person retreat on scholarship in August and I am so grateful to the Highlights Foundation for this opportunity. I am determined to advance my storytelling skills and artistic techniques to bring my creative visions to life. Thank YOU for following along my journey, and if you would like to learn more about scholarship and learning opportunities through The Highlights Foundation, I welcome you to explore their resources here