This past year was Grace Belgarde’s senior year, her 13th year of attending SMIS. Opting to stay a virtual learner this past academ-ic year, Grace kept her classmates and teachers at the front of her mind. “My mom works in the hospital and had first had contact with patients. It was difficult not seeing my friends or being at school, but I knew it was safer for everyone. I was able to figure out more about who I am and picked up new interests. I began riding a bike every day and took long walks with my mom. I probably would never have done those things if not for the pandemic. “

Grace felt the quarantine prepared her more for college in the sense of managing her time and learning how to maneuver different tech-nology and resources. “The school enhanced its online learning. I had no experience in online learning classes before. Our teachers quickly got us to using cameras (to see one another), do group work projects, and made time for us. I enjoyed the discussion calls. I hope the school keeps the online option especially for groups work.” said Grace about shifting to online learning. The pandemic brought awareness about the dedication her mother has for the community. Most importantly it reiterated her goal to finish up her college education and return to Fort Defiance to serve in the medical and health field with a focus on psychiatry.

Grace received the merit-based Chancellor Scholarship and Resident Hall grant from the University of Denver. Grace was selected by the university to participate in a cohort-based program called the CWC Leadership Scholars Program. A program highlight includes community-based learning and problem solving across all four years of the program. The program includes a leadership minor and offers workshops and mentoring.

One of Grace’s hidden talents is her painting. Grace began dabbling with the various mediums of art as a young child. She has done some clay sculpting, beadwork, watercolor, however no oil painting yet. Having taken a few art courses in school, Grace was encouraged by the high school art teacher to submit artwork.

The art assignments focused on Native American heritage.For the painting of the woman, I thought of my aunts and their connection to the birds and eagles. For the buffalo painting, I submitted that to the Heard Museum for their student art show. The show didn’t happen because of the pandemic. The buffalo for me represents many things, but mainly protection and strength.” The students were challenged with various projects which require personal perspective. She enjoyed creating artwork that had components of representing social inequality, social justice issues, or sustainable earth. “The time I spent on my art helps me to process what I’m thinking about, but also to express myself.”

Grace’s other interests include fostering stray animals, volunteering at the Humane Society, and participating in the choir and poetry club.
Water color buffalo painting Grace planned to submit to the 2020 Heard Art Show.
Acrylic on canvas painting created by Grace in 2020.




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