Grace Thomas is driven and accomplished. A two-sport cheerleader, she also tackled six rigorous Advanced Placement classes at Lakeside High School in Nine Mile Falls and plans to attend Western Washington University this fall.
And she’s done it all while dealing with difficulties that would overwhelm many.
“She’s overcome a lot of adversity,” said teacher Matt Sullivan. “And she’s done it with a great attitude.”
Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 9, Thomas struggled to adjust to a life that now involved finger pricks and regular injections.
Thankfully, she found help and support at Camp STIX, a community-based summer camp for children and teens with diabetes.
“I’ve been attending every year since I was 9 and I’ve been volunteering as a counselor for three years,” she said. “I don’t know where I’d be without Camp STIX. They make you feel normal. It’s like my second family.”
Less than a year after her diabetes diagnosis, Thomas’ mother was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and died.
Her parents had divorced when she was very young and her father is no longer involved with the family. At 10, she moved in with her older brother and forged a new life.
“It was a really tragic time for our family,” Thomas said. “A lot was happening, but I just didn’t let it stop me.”
Indeed, her work ethic and positive attitude were noted and appreciated at Lakeside.
“If anybody had an excuse to go off the deep end, it would be her,” Sullivan said. “But she’s the type of kid I want in my classroom regardless of the circumstance. She’s so down to earth.”
She’s also not afraid of new challenges – like trying out for cheerleading her senior year.
“I wanted to try out earlier, but I had a self-confidence issue,” Thomas said. “I finally decided if I didn’t try out, I’d regret it.”
In spite of the demands on her time, she’s enjoyed the experience immensely.
“I love it so much. I love being connected to the student body and spreading school spirit.”
While she’s glad she pushed herself to try something new, she’s most proud of her academic achievements.
“I’m a big science nerd,” she said. “I really love physics and I’ve always been good at math.”
Thomas is also quite competitive.
“She’s not real happy if she doesn’t get the highest score on the test,” Sullivan said.
In addition to school activities and her ongoing involvement with Camp STIX, Thomas is also passionate about politics. She caucused for Bernie Sanders in Loon Lake.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “It really opened my eyes.”
In fact, Sullivan can easily picture his student running for office some day.
“I’d love to see her go into politics,” he said. “She’s smart, well-spoken and thinks on her feet.”
“I’m good at debating. It’s like an adrenalin rush for me.”
But science is her first love. She plans to major in environmental science at Western Washington University.
However, she said she will always be politically involved. It was her mother who exposed her to politics and continued involvement in something her mother enjoyed is a way of staying connected to her.
“I really hope she’d be proud,” Thomas said.
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