NAMPA, Idaho — While winning this year's Picture My Future student art contest was exciting for Idaho Arts Charter School student Jaanai Guajardo, inspiring others is her dream.
The State Department of Education offers Idaho students between 7th and 12th grade to submit the Picture My Future student art contest every year. The competition is an opportunity for students to "share their personal visions of life after high school," according to the state's website. The SDE will display the winning piece at its headquarters in Boise and online.
"None of this has ever happened to me. I'm usually the quiet kid that sits in the back of the class, so for this to get attention, it meant a lot to me," Guajardo said in an interview with Idaho News 6.
Earlier this week, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra announced Guajardo as this year's winner during her annual budget request to the legislature. On Thursday, she visited the Idaho Arts Charter School to congratulate Guajardo in person.
"It is my life's work as an educator, and it is my number one job to support schools and students to achieve," she said. "To have the opportunity to come out here and shake the hand of a student and tell them to follow their dreams is one of the most rewarding things I could ever have the opportunity to do."
Guajardo's black and white drawing features a hand reaching out of a dark cloud with words like "depression," "anxiety," "stress," and "ADHD" toward another hand surrounded by sunshine. As someone who struggles with social anxiety, Guajardo said her drawing aims to tell people "that even in the darkest times you can find hope, you just have to hold onto that hope in order for things to get better."
"I want to help people overcome their struggles in life," the 16-year-old said on Thursday. "I hope that anyone who has mental health issues are able to find some hope in anything and get better soon."
Ybarra said the artwork represents how students feel during the pandemic, perseverance, and the importance of caring for the younger generation's mental health.
"She really touched my staff and myself when we were going through the entries," Ybarra told Idaho News 6 in an interview. "That picture is worth a thousand words."