Heritage High School senior Kimberly Smoley is now a cheerleader, plays volleyball, and is on ASB. She’s studying cosmetology through Running Start. Not long ago, she was a middle school dropout struggling with anxiety and depression. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Heritage High School senior Kimberly Smoley is now a cheerleader, plays volleyball, and is on ASB. She’s studying cosmetology through Running Start. Not long ago, she was a middle school dropout struggling with anxiety and depression. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Thinking positively: ‘I want to be the best of the best’

Heritage High senior Kimberly Smoley plans a career in dermatology.

TULALIP — Heritage High School senior Kimberly Smoley, who has overcome a lot, including her own shy nature, and is now a cheerleader, plays volleyball, and is on ASB. She’s studying cosmetology through Running Start.

Question: How long have you been at Heritage?

Answer: I started coming here halfway through freshman year. In eighth grade I dropped out because of personal reasons. When I was 14, I moved out of my house because I didn’t want to be in that bad environment. So I moved in with my friend around that time. It was really hard. I had really bad depression and anxiety. I couldn’t handle going to school. When I moved in with her I got more pushed to get back on track.

Q: What was that transition back to school like?

A: I was really scared. I used to get really bad panic attacks. When I can’t do something, I give up. I had a really bad confidence level with that. So I was afraid I was going to come back and just fail at everything. When I first came back, it was hard. Since this school is so small, and everyone is so open, it was a lot easier. I just kept pushing myself because of that. Also I am very competitive and don’t like being behind people. So I really pushed myself.

Q: And now you’re involved in quite a bit?

A: Yeah, I started volleyball and cheerleading last year. This is my second year on ASB. Last year I went to Sno-Isle to take cosmetology and got honor roll there and got honor roll here. Now I’m doing Running Start. I go to cosmetology every day. It’s kind of like a job. We work in a salon. We work on clients.

Q: What got you interested in cosmetology?

A: I’ve always been interested in art, I think because of my dad. I don’t know my dad. He lives in Canada. But I’ve always heard about him and seen his artwork, because he’s a tattoo artist. And I’ve always liked doing hair and stuff. So when we had Sno-Isle come here and I saw the cosmetology program, I thought it would be fun to do but I didn’t think I’d actually pursue it. But I did very good in it and it was very fun. It made me look forward to going to school again. It’s definitely what I want to do.

Q: It’s a good sign when you look forward to going to school.

A: Yeah. Especially because in middle school, I would only be going to school like once a week. Even then, I’d only be there an hour or two and then I’d call my mom, crying, to come pick me up. Or I’d pretend I was sick. So I got so far behind. I was failing all my classes. I had no friends. … I was very disrespectful, because I was very uncomfortable with myself. Now I can’t stand having a B or a C. It has to be an A.

Q: Is there a specific aspect of cosmetology you want to pursue?

A: I want to go further and be a dermatologist. I want to finish up this, get my license, work for a couple of years, then go back to school, go to med school and get my dermatology license.

Q: Why dermatology?

A: Maybe it’s the science or maybe how advanced it is. Something about being a doctor and being that high up on the ranking — I want to be the best of the best. And I really like skin. I don’t know. I feel smart when I say I want to be a dermatologist.

Q: Heritage includes a lot of Tulalip-focused programs, such as learning the Lushootseed language. But like you, students don’t have to be Native (American) to attend.

A: We learn a lot about diversity and culture and how things shape us into who we are. I think it’s better to learn more about your community and bring that aspect into how you live your everyday life. I think this is a better school for me personally because of my anxiety. I cannot handle being around a lot of people. This environment being so small and everyone knows each other, everyone is really welcoming. Even though I’m not native or from Tulalip, they treat me like family nonetheless because I go here.

Q: You’re ASB treasurer. What drew you to leadership?

A: I definitely didn’t expect myself to ever do that. Just being a leader and having people look up to me is something I’m not used to and it makes me feel really good. And I like being involved in things, having a say in what goes on in your school.

Q: You played volleyball?

A: I wish I did volleyball sooner, because I definitely opened up more. I became more confident in my body from working out. I made a lot more friends. I learned that, on or off the court, if you make a mistake, you don’t sit there and dwell over it. … If you don’t get up and keep going, you’re going to get behind.

Q: So what is it like to be a senior, looking ahead to graduation?

A: Honestly, really scary. Coming here is kind of my comfort. I’m in my secure bubble. If I’m having a hard day, I can come to any of these adults. … I didn’t ever see myself finishing school. Now that I’m doing really well and actually about to graduate, it’s crazy. I’m scared, but I’m sure it will be all good. I’m ready. I’m pretty pumped to see what I get to do next and take on some new opportunities.

Melissa Slager: mslager@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3432.

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