WASILLA — Palmer High School senior Grace Straughn is graduating with a 4.2 GPA and a full tuition and dorm scholarship to University of Notre Dame, garnering a lot of praise from her family, teachers and greater community.

“It’s so well deserved. She is the epitome of an Ivy League learner,” PHS Japanese teacher Carla Swick said.

Straughn is leaving for South Bend, Indiana, this fall after earning an International Baccalaureate Diploma. Swick said the good news comes after years of dedication coupled with a mature and ever sharpening tool set of best practices. She said her school and work ethics are top notch.

“She juggles her commitments better than any adult I know,” Swick said with a laugh. “She really always 110 percent at anything she does.”

Straughn was Swick’s Japanese student for the last four years. Swick said the graduating senior has always been the model student who cared more about the content than the grade, emitting an overall adoration of learning for learning’s sake.

Swick and her fellow teachers have marveled over the years at Straughn’s willingness to put in extra effort on her own time just to gain a deeper understanding of whatever the subject at hand is. Education is one of the various areas of interest the multidisciplinary teen is interested in.

“She will be amazing at whatever career path she chooses,” Swick said. “She always is a deep thinker and a hard worker. I’m so excited for her full ride scholarship… It takes grit to pull off what she did.”

Swick said that Straughn shadowed the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District’s assistant superintendent Amy Spargo, taking part of a state competition. She won first place and earned an all expense paid trip to Washington DC, which would have been in June but it was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“I love that she’s so committed and engaged with her community,” Swick said.

Straughn has been passionate about dance since the second grade. She loves the whole spectrum of the artform, dabbling all sorts of genres like ballet, jazz, modern, and musical theater.

Straughn has won and placed in several national dance competitions. She’s performed in major endeavors like “The Nutcracker” at the Anchorage Performing Arts Center and with the Colony High School Marching Band in the 2017 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Straughn also choreographed and performed in the Valley’s recent adaption of “Beauty and the Beast” at the Glenn Massay Theater as the only crew member under 40. Straughn always tells people that dance will “always be a part of her life.”

Kelly Rentz is a choir director at Colony High School and was the color guard coach for the marching band at the Macy’s Parade. Rentz is also heavily involved in the local theater community and she worked with Straughn during “Beauty and the Beast.”

“She is always prepared. She shows up ready to work and sets high expectations,”

Rentz said that Straughn is a very hard worker and while she may not be able to have a normal graduation due to COVID-19, but she definitely has a bright future ahead of her, culminating from her unwavering discipline and wide range of passions.

“We’re all very happy and excited for her. I think the best advice for students is to diversify like she had. She kind of does a lot of different things to help prepare. She’s very well rounded,” Rentz said.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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