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11th Grader Lola Stone Wins Democracy & Me’s 2023 Student Voices Competition

“I entered the competition because of Ms. Kelley’s civics class. I wanted to show just one beautiful moment that encompasses what I want my future to look like.”

When Cincinnati Public Radio’s Kahvah Whittaker showed up at the Cincinnati Waldorf High School on Monday, August 22nd to make a special announcement, 11th grader Lola Stone had no idea it had anything to do with her.

“I saw my parents there, and my first thought was that I was in trouble,” laughed Lola. “But then my mom was winking at me, so I thought maybe it was good news.”

A few minutes later, Lola learned that her submission had been selected as the winning creative entry for the 2023 Student Voices Competition — and that she’d be receiving a check (a giant one, in fact) for $1,000.

Watch Lola’s reaction here.

“When she said my name, I just died,” says Lola. “I had forgotten all about the competition.”

Lola says she decided to submit a piece of art because Ms. Kelley had told her class about the competition in civics — and because she liked that it was an opportunity specifically for teens.

“I thought the idea of getting teens involved was cool,” remembers Lola. “I think teenagers tend to get overlooked even though we have a lot to say.”

Lola’s piece is a print called “No Fruit Is Forbidden.” Lola says the image came from thinking about climate change and wealth inequality and trying to channel her fears about those things into a positive image of a “fruitful” future.

My concern is that climate change is going to destroy the earth, and I don’t know how to change that – except for saying down with the big corporations,” explains Lola. “So, I didn’t want to make it about politics. I just wanted to show something beautiful. Things I want to see happen or change can seem so impossible, so I thought how could I show just one beautiful moment that represents equality and a healthy environment. This image captured that for me.”

Lola isn’t sure what she’ll do with the $1,000 award. “Likely, it’ll go toward college or car repairs,” she says, though she admits that it’s possible she’ll treat herself to a new pair of Jordans, too. “I really love Jordans,” admits Lola with a grin.

Lola says she’s been deeply influenced by her family — especially her mom, who home-schooled her for many years, and her older sister, Kaya. She loves both math and art and has dreams of becoming (possibly) an architectural engineer.

If the competition taught her one thing, Lola says it’s this: “Doing my homework pays off!”

Learn more about Democracy & Me, an educational outreach project from Cincinnati Public Radio.

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