During an assembly at Independence High School Thursday afternoon, 11th grader Molly Cahill was announced as the Grand Prize Winner of The ArtEffect Project, an international competition for students in grades 6-12 hosted by the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC). The contest drew 430 student entries from across the U.S. and abroad.

Before Thursday’s assembly, Molly knew she was a finalist but did not she won. The school community gathered for the assembly to surprise her.

Molly won $7,500 for her project “Hope for the Verdict,” depicting Unsung Hero Mitsuye Endo, a woman who challenged Japanese-American internment all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and won in 1944.

“After doing this project my whole perspective of art making has changed,” writes Cahill in her artist statement. “I feel now that I want to have emotional ties to my pieces and be able to tell a story or present a feeling without having to explain it with words.”

The art competition’s judging panel consisted of experts in the fields of art history, design, and museum education, including representatives from the Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the Art Center College of Design.

LMC’s Unsung Heroes Art Competition, a cross-curricular and holistic art program, offers cash prizes totaling $13,500 and is open to U.S. and international students in grades 6-12. Eligible students are invited to submit high-quality art projects interpreting an Unsung Hero’s character and actions in the following two categories: (1) Celebrating Unsung Heroes and (2) Discovering Unsung Heroes. Students are required to submit a 500-1,000 word artist statement articulating their interpretation of the Unsung Hero’s story and their personal connection to the subject matter. Cahill’s artwork, along with the other winning student art projects, will be displayed in LMC’s Hall of Unsung Heroes, a state-of-the-art museum and exhibition space in Fort Scott, Kansas, and on www.LowellMilkenCenter.org.