By Maddie Baker
Students may have seen her toiling away in the garden or running around the track: Grace Burks has blossomed into an environmental activist and athlete. Grace Burks was born in the Bay Area of Northern California and lived in North Carolina for eight years before settling in Henderson her eighth grade year. Her younger brother, Payton, is a junior here, and her younger sister, Sofia, is in the fifth grade. Throughout her four years of high school, Burks has toiled her way to graduation as an outstanding scholar and upstanding citizen.
“My favorite part of going to school with my sister is getting help with math and Spanish,” Payton Burks, her younger brother, said. “My sister inspires because she always works hard when it matters.”
Her hard work and her love of gardening prompted Burks to start Environmental Club three years ago. In her personal garden, she has avocado, peach, lemon, orange, kumquat, grapefruit, nectarine, and apricot trees. One of the main goals for Burks when she started Environmental Club was to change the school’s waste disposal system in order to get people more inclined to recycle and have a higher regard for the environment. The club wants to make students aware of environmental concerns and to garner an interest in aiding the environment.
“[Grace] is such a pleasure to work with,” Mrs. Jackson, Environmental Club advisor, said. “She is so efficient and so creative. She has a ready-smile and a love for mankind from the smartest of kids to the kids who are struggling. She is there for everyone. She’s a real get-it-done kind of girl. If she has an idea and you say yes, turn around and boom, it’s done.”
Besides gardening and crafting, Burks also loves running– she’s even gone so far and fractured her foot from running so much. Due to her fractured foot, she has been unable to participate in this year’s season; however, she refused to abandon her teammates after participating in meets for three years. Mr. Cooper, the track coach, made her an honorary coach and has her do ab workouts on the sidelines even though the most rewarding parts of track to her are competing and socializing.
Burks also experimented with several other school clubs. She was the president and founder of Science National Honor Society her sophomore year.. She played volleyball her freshman year. She participated as a CougarFIT mentor and a member of InterSchool club council. Burks was also the treasurer of Habitat for Humanity and a member of National Art Society member her sophomore year. Outside of school, she volunteered at the Henderson Libraries, and she works as a tutor and pet/babysitter. Through these clubs, Burks became friends with seniors Sarah Kazemeini, Olivia Lavin, Ryan O’Connor, Emma Schmidt, Nishi Rahman, and Hannah Sterling.
“I met Grace in AP Chemistry where I first began talking to her,” O’Connor said. “She was always staying after class and putting in the extra work, so I eventually started talking to her. Over the course of this year, I happened to join more of her clubs, so we began talking more and realized that we had a lot in common. I ended being on two of the boards with her, so she was stuck with me for the rest of junior year at that point.”
Burks has been accepted to UC Davis, Oregon State, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and University of Vermont, but she will officially attend Oregon State in the fall. Her goal is to study agriculture and to eventually work in regenerative agriculture, which returns nutrients back into the ground, increasing biodiversity and will hopefully reduce global warming in the long run. From Cougar to Oregon Beaver, Burks will continue to save the world one recycling bin at a time.