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Idaho Arts Charter junior wins SDE's Picture My Future art contest

Jaanai Guajardo won the State Department of Education's student contest with a pencil sketch of a hand reaching from the ground toward a stretched hand above.

BOISE, Idaho — A student from Nampa and a junior at Idaho Arts Charter School is the winner of the Idaho State Department of Education's (SDE) 'Picture my Future' art contest, announced Monday by Superintendent of Public Institution Sherri Ybarra. 

Jaanai Guajardo took home first place in the student art contest with a pencil sketch of a hand reaching up from the ground toward another outstretched hand from above. 

Ybarra announced Guajardo as the winner as she outlined her 2022-2023 public schools budget request to the Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations committee. In a statement from the department of education, Ybarra said the contest typically features runner-ups, but Guajardo's art "stands alone" as the top work this year.

"It's a singular image, at a singular moment, and it makes us think," Ybarra said. "It captures the difficulties of this long-running pandemic and the strength and caring that help us persevere. It also drives home the importance of caring for students' mental, emotional and behavioral health as well as their academic achievement."

In the announcement, Guajardo said the drawing is based on goals to become a psychologist. Due to personal experiences with social anxiety, the student said, "I want to be able to help people that go through the same things as me. I then drew what it meant to me -- what having a mental illness is like -- and then I drew how a psychologist helps overcome those struggles."

"The hand on the bottom is the one that is struggling with their illness and they are drowning in their problems, and the hand on the top is reaching out to the other hand, trying to help them overcome their struggles and help them reach happiness," Guajardo said.

Guajardo's first-place artwork will be displayed at the Idaho State Department of Education's headquarters in Boise and on the SDE website. SDE superintendent Ybarra said although the contest had numerous inspiring entries, Guajardo's pencil sketch rose above because of its reality students are facing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Jaanai's drawing captures the challenges many students are facing, but also the self-awareness, problem-solving and confidence we all want for our children: the ability to cope with life challenges and succeed academically, socially and professionally," Ybarra said. "The image is striking, as we see that the hand reaching up is surrounded by a swirl of words including stress, depression and social anxiety."

The SDE 'Picture my Future' student art contest is an annual competition open to all students of Idaho public schools between the seventh grade and seniors in high school.

Credit: State Department of Education

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