CLEARMONT — Arvada-Clearmont High School graduate Tamica Smith has ensured through hard work and determination that her past and low expectations will not define her future.
Growing up in and out of the foster care system at a young age, Smith said she recognizes the low expectations and excuses placed on her by society. However, after a few teachers expected more of her and found classes and extracurricular activities she was interested in, Smith finds herself leading the ACHS class of 2022 as valedictorian.
“What kept me going was knowing there was something better out there,” Smith said. “I knew I was in a situation (during foster care) that I might not be exactly happy with, that might not be the healthiest for me, that might put me in a bad state mentally, but I always knew if I worked hard, I could do it…and this was the year people really recognized the work I did throughout my high school career.
Smith became heavily involved in extracurricular activities as a freshman at ACHS. In her four years, she has participated in music honors, Students Against Destructive Decisions, FFA, student council, National Honor Society, volleyball, basketball, U.S. Senate Youth Program, and Girls State. She has found success in the FFA, making a name for herself in several events, as well as Girls State, where she competed in the national competition in Washington, DC, last school year. She has held student council positions for three years and is currently also working part-time.
Smith said she got her leadership jobs — and discovered she had qualities unique to leading her peers — by never taking no for an answer.
“(After initially being denied access to the honors music class), it made me see that leadership isn’t sitting there and telling people what to do,” Smith said. . “Leadership is talking to people, communicating with them, and not being exactly the most ‘leader’ person. You don’t have to act like you’re in charge to be a leader, and it really defined my personality and made me more open to people, communicate better, and get involved. in more activities, I really feel like I have become a better person.
More importantly, Smith said her past doesn’t define her future, and she encourages others who might have similar paths to hers to find ways that help them move beyond their circumstances. That avenue for Smith was school, graduating from high school and not stopping there. She plans to go to college after high school and has found her footing in art.
“It’s important for people to remember that just because you’re from somewhere doesn’t mean you have to be,” Smith said. “I was always told that since I was once in a situation, that was where I was always going to be. I was told that I could never be better than the child who was in the system Obviously that’s not true because everyone hears now that I was in foster care and they’re like, “What?” They’re blown away, they’re flabbergasted.
She used art as an outlet for the complex feelings she had about family, life’s struggles, and a self-proclaimed “espresso depresso” crisis. Through her education and her art, Smith discovered that it was possible to become a good student even though she had experienced difficulties.
“I believe this is the outlook we should have on life: we are more than where we come from, and we are worth more than that, and we can continue to rise above our circumstances,” he said. said Smith.