A dozen Long Beach-based teens took to their sketchbooks or computers to create artwork aimed to strike a chord with the public on vaccinations, especially for other young people.

Khmer Girls in Action, a local youth organization acting in collaboration with the #WeCanDoThis campaign, a federal Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 public education campaign, launched an art contest this summer. Last month they announced three winners.

“This is a call from young leaders to get vaccinated,” KGA communications director Joy Yanga said.

The contest was a fun way to challenge misinformation about the vaccine being unsafe. The artists also hope to raise awareness of booster shots for immunocompromised people.

As COVID-19 variants continue to emerge, Yanga said this artwork came at the right time. “Our health is all interconnected with each other,” she said

Karen Ferrer, Chansochata Thon and Maygan Ngeng won first, second and third place, respectively, earning cash prizes. Other contestants received $25 gift cards. Contestants who entered artwork ranged between the ages of 12 to 19 and their submissions were also scored by their written descriptions of the artwork, Yanga said. Twelve youth participated, some of them submitting more than one art piece, she added.

For now, the artwork is only up KGA’s website and social media.

Check out what these youth created and wrote:

First place
Artwork by Karen Ferrer. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.
Second place
Artwork by Chansochata Thon. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.
Third place
Artwork by Maygan Ngeng. “SEA” stands for Southeast Asian. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.
Other submissions
Artwork by Leanne Phung.

“Getting vaccinated prevents the spread of COVID-19, thus protecting ourselves, our loved ones, and our community.”

– Leanne Phung

Artwork by Chelsea Chhem.

“This piece is titled ‘My Post-Pandemic Backpack,’ this is inspired by a personal tradition I had when I would decorate my backpack during back-to-school season. During the pandemic, it seems as though that return to school gets even more delayed and troublesome. As that date gets pushed back, I have also witnessed entire social movements in this past year, and in solidarity, these moments have been represented on the backpack. Part of what makes this image possible is the vaccine. In the sleeve is their vaccination card, for a safe return and for the seeking of the complete community experience, this becomes a necessary step to see each other again. I imagine that when this person wears this on their way back to school, maybe someone can read their pins, patches, and card and think, and they are comforted by the idea that ‘We can do this.’ By the time we return, things won’t be the same, the air will feel different. To me, this backpack reflects my hopes for a better future.“

– Chelsea Chhem

Artwork by Janet Ing. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.

“My artwork is about why I think getting vaccinated is important as well as my family that I care about and don’t want to endanger!”

– Janet Ing

Artwork by Agnes Aragones. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.

“This piece was inspired by my trip to Europe in 2019 and the BLM movement in summer 2020. With all of the sleepless and stressful nights that this pandemic caused, the importance of educating oneself and empathizing with others was needed more now than ever. I created this piece as a reflection of the value of education and being aware. Being vaccinated is important to me and my family so that we can lie life with intention and surround ourselves with those around us. In the end, with the power of knowledge, patience and determination, we will all be able to go through this.”

– Agnes Aragones


Artwork by Sherlyn Liyah Catal. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.

“The piece I have created says “Here and Now. Right Now. We Stand Up Fight Back, For the Youth. Stop the Spread. Join The Fight Against The Fight! #getvaccinated” I chose to create this because I wanted to display a theme of leadership, and how the rise in Asian hate has impacted so many, including myself, thus the careful choosing of the colors (red, black, yellow, white, and blue). I also based it off graffiti and chose edgy writing as I wanted it to be hard and interesting to look at, as it will grasp more attention. Getting vaccinated is so important to me, as it can save so many lives, as well as our elders and many of our loved ones in our communities. I know that we can do this because we the people have the power to conquer the world.”

– Sherlyn Liyah Catal

Artwork by Laura Rosen. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.

“My artwork represents how vaccinations aren’t something to be afraid of. So many people are misinformed about vaccines which is why I chose to illustrate a heart as the backdrop. It symbolizes how if you choose to get vaccinated, you’re not only taking care of yourself but those around you by slowing the spread. Plus, now that the vaccine is available to kids it’s more important than ever to stress this importance to parents. I want people to understand that vaccines are a necessary component of community care and eventually defeating COVID. We can do this but only if we all do our part. My art’s message is that no matter who you are or where you’re from, you should take the vaccine if possible.”

– Laura Rosen

Artwork by Leanne Phung. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.
Artwork by Maygan Ngeng. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.

“My artwork touches on the importance of the vaccine and how it can save the lives of others and [one]self. It shows leadership in a person’s lead in getting the vaccine and helping out the community become safe. I also decided to make it colorful because getting the vaccine will lead [to] a colorful future. Getting this vaccine is important because it makes sure that the community doesn’t get as hurt from COVID without it. Because of how strong COVID is, the vaccine will help there be less hurt and hospitalized people. We can all do this so that pain won’t defeat us.”

– Maygan Ngeng

Artwork by Janet Ing. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.

“Take the shot. It’s not worth the risk of harming others or the people you care about. I chose to create this as a more serious and motivational piece. Getting vaccinated is important to me because it makes a safer community and can help lower the risk of getting Covid. I believe that we can come together to make sure everybody gets vaccinated, I believe we can do this. Take the shot.”

– Janet Ing

Artwork by Humaira Hasan. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.

“My artwork is about helping the community to be encouraged to take the vaccine, to promote and educate them about the purpose of the vaccine and how it can overall benefit the community- to “save lives”.I decided to go with this theme because I feel like it truly represents the souls of our young fighters, as they are heroes fighting against Covid-19 and the hardships and dilemmas it has to offer. I also chose superheroes to represent the community because the vaccine is our “power-up”, shielding us against the harm of Covid and ultimately getting us through these tough times. I understand that the pandemic has affected many people of color and with the vaccine so as a vaccinated person of color, getting vaccinated to me means being able to be safe and keep my family and community safe. Since the vaccine is free and noted effective by professionals, it guarantees that hope for safety that we have all been longing for. And soon, my community who has suffered because of corona can once again, go back to their previous daily lives, to work for their families, to share joyous memories with friends, and much more! I hope well for our community, to be blessed and joyous, let us continue our lives and passions through the aid of the vaccine. Continue to be safe and take care, we can do this!”

– Humaira Hasan

Artwork by Erich Phung. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.
Artwork by Janet Ing. Courtesy of Khmer Girls in Action.

“My artwork is about the spread of Covid throughout the world. I chose to create this because the Earth is our home, it is where we all live and we need to come together to make change when being faced with something as harmful as Covid is. Getting vaccinated is so important because not only does it show that you want to be safe, but also that you care about us and everybody on this planet. It’s not only your friends, family, teachers, doctors, but everyone that can make a difference. We all live here, so let’s show a little love for each other and our home. Let’s all make sure to get vaccinated so we don’t put others at risk. We can do this, we can protect each other.”

– Janet Ing

Editor’s note: This story was updated with additional art contest submissions.