Later this spring, one Henrico High School senior will walk across two stages for two important events. One is graduation; the other is recognition at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Ellie Braun spends hours working on her art. One is called "Sassy". "Mark" and "Chad" hang on a board inside an art gallery inside the Center for the Arts at Henrico High.
"I was trying to make him look really innocent and I guess naïve," said Braun.
The 17-year-old has been drawing all of her life. However, it wasn't until she enrolled into the Center for the Arts at Henrico High that her talent really took off.
"You can get your message across by a creative act, instead of just you know speaking it," said Braun.
Her work speaks loud and clear.
"People find it so important to gender everything. You know, this is a boy thing. This is a girl thing. And I'm kind of like 'No. Don't do that'," said Braun.
Her colorful way of not putting people into a box has captured the attention of the nation's most prestigious scholarship program.
Ellie was recently named a National Portfolio Gold Medalist, meaning she is now 10-thousand dollars richer, and her work will be featured in a special two-week exhibit in New York City.
"Technically, she's really mastered her media, which is colored pencil, but I think what goes beyond that is her decision to address a subject that is very current, transgender issues and identity issues,and do it with a little bit of a sense of humor but also with the seriousness," said art teacher Mary Scurlock.
Ellie plans to become a professional artist in the future, and with this recognition, she is well on her way.
"Work hard at what you do and do it with everything you possibly can because you never know what's going to happen," said Braun.
Ellie is one of only sixteen students nationwide to receive a portfolio gold medal. Other winners over the years have included Andy Warhol and Stephen King.