News Column

Yakama Tribal School senior sheds shyness to become class leader

June 10, 2014

By Kate Prengaman, Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.

June 10--Related Information

Mariah Hicks

-- Age: 18

-- School: Yakama Nation Tribal School

-- Graduates: Wednesday

-- GPA: 3.7

-- What's next?: Hicks is headed to study art and animation at the Arts Institute in Las Vegas.

-- For more graduation stories, visit

TOPPENISH, Wash. -- It's hard to believe that Mariah Hicks used to be shy.

The 18-year-old is the senior class president at the Yakama Nation Tribal School and she's been organizing everything from the prom to the senior class trip to Disneyland to celebrate graduation.

But in eighth grade, when her parents transferred her from Wapato Middle School to the Tribal School, Hicks said she was shy and nervous about the move.

"I was still in my shell when I started here, but they cracked it and I've made lifelong friends here," Hicks said. "This school is like a family."

Coming to a small school opened up a lot more opportunities, Hicks said, especially to be a leader. She played basketball, competed with the track team, and wrote letters to local businesses asking for donations to sponsor school activities.

Principal Reyln Strom said Hicks' leadership and initiative have had a big impact on the school community. She and her friends were the ones who dreamed up a trip to Disneyland instead of the usual, more local options and organized the fundraisers needed to make the trip a reality.

"She's helping to change our image here, getting the word out that Tribal School is changing," Strom said.

"Mariah shows that you can go to college when you go to Tribal School."

Hicks is headed to the Arts Institute of Las Vegas, where she plans to study animation.

She's always been passionate about art and, last year, she attended a two-day workshop at the Arts Institute, where her mom is in the culinary program.

"When I went to AI, it was really fun and I could just see myself doing it, like for a long time. Something clicked," Hicks said.

Hicks draws inspiration for her art from all kinds of sources, from video games to her horse, Red. She's done portraits of her teachers and drawings inspired by traditional tribal art.

"I just draw what I like," Hicks said. "I'm inspired by Disney and Japanese anime (a type of animation). I want to incorporate both and come up with my own style."

The small animation program, like her small high school, is appealing, Hicks said.

Plus, she has Nevada roots. Her mother and older brother are both living in Las Vegas and her father's family is from outside Reno -- part of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

She plans to move soon after graduation because classes start in July. Moving on feels both exciting and a little bittersweet after five years with her Tribal School family.

"This school and the teachers, that's what I'll miss. This whole school really left an indent in my brain."


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Source: Yakima Herald-Republic (WA)

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