SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Union Catholic's Selina Cao has been chosen for a prestigious Gold Key award by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, which are presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

Cao, a sophomore, was selected for her submission of a 30x30 pomegranate painting entitled "Lights and Fading.''

There were a total of over 4,200 submissions from over 1,500 students in New Jersey, and approximately 450 of the submissions were chosen for awards.  

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Cao's painting will be exhibited in the Montclair Art Museum this month and she's been invited along with the other Gold Key award winners to a special Award Ceremony and Reception at the Montclair Art Museum on Feb. 15. Her artwork has now been entered into judging in a national competition of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

"I was so surprised and excited,'' said Cao, who started working on her award winning painting last June. "I literally screamed when I found out. I thought maybe I could have a chance at Silver Key, but I didn't expect to win a Gold Key.''

Cao, who is from China, said art has always been her passion.

"Art has been my hobby for a long time, and I won some art competitions in China when I was younger,'' said Cao. "It's always been something I've loved to do. Art is something that relaxes me and I can release my expression through art,'' said Cao, a member of the National Art Honor Society (NAHS) who attends an art studio in Edison. "Art just makes me very happy.'' 

Mrs. Rebecca Schroppe,  the founder and moderator of UC's NAHS, raved about Cao's unique talent and work ethic.

"The level of attention to Selina's work is very rare for someone her age, and the talent she exhibits is extraordinary,'' said Mrs. Schroppe. "She's so driven. She's amazing!''