Natalie Howard - Arizona Nomination & Photography by Nicole Carson Bonilla Portrait Studio Issue 51 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
Nomination: Natalie’s gift of positivity has allowed her inner light to shine in the face of adversity as she has endured the challenges of Covid-19 and moving to a new community and high school. Like the soaring spires of sorghum next to her, she has grown from these experiences and found a way to express who she is and be true to herself. As the youngest of four children, she brings laughter and joy to her family and is always ready with a joke or funny story. She is active in her community and a wonderful example of caring for others.
Photography by Nicole Carson Bonilla Portrait Studio
Tell us about your dancing. A big part of my life is my dancing. I’ve been doing dance for about half my life. When I was about 7, I started ballet and fell in love with it. A few years later, I was on acrobatic competition team and participated in several competitions. I loved being on the stage with my teammates. There were some tough moments, but I learned so much by being a part of a team that relies on each other so much. We won a few awards and had a great time. I’ve also taken, jazz, contemporary, modern dance, gymnastics, and hip-hop classes.
What has been a favorite accomplishment from dance and why? When I am practicing for a dance that I have been working on for a while, I feel so much accomplishment and reward being able to perform in front of others. I know all my hard work has been worth it and I feel good about myself.
What has been your favorite dance competition? In June 2019, I performed at the KARS dance competition with my Jazz group. The experience was amazing! When the adrenaline kicked it, I was able to perform at my best and have tons of energy on stage. It was definitely one of my best performances of my life!
Tell us about a struggle you went through with dance and how you overcame it. When I was on the acrobatic team, my back was slowly deteriorating. I ended up having to quit that team so I could recover. I was so sad to leave that team but now I am grateful that happened. Because of this break, I was able to try different types of dancing and I discovered my love for contemporary dancing.
What else should we know? I am starting to get into art and willing to work hard at developing my talents. I usually just use pencil and paper. I have also made some pieces out of clay.
How has Covid-19 changed you? What is something positive that came out of it for you? Going through Covid was hard for me. My dance programs were closed, I couldn’t attend church every week, friends couldn’t hang out and school was cancelled for the rest of the year. I just didn’t have anything in my life to inspire me. But coming out of Covid, I have realized how grateful I am for my friends, family, and the activities I can be a part of again.
What things do you do to stay active in your community? I have been able to help at lots of activities at the YMCA throughout my life. My mom worked there for about 10 years up until Covid hit. Every year she asked me to volunteer at some of their community events working with little kids. Within my church community, I have been a part of food drives, service projects cleaning debris from a property and also helping families in need living in my community.
Photography by Rene Photography
What is like being the youngest of 4 kids? What is a favorite memory with your siblings? I love having older siblings that I can talk to. We are all really close in age and in school. We all get along so well, hardly ever disagree on important stuff and my sisters are my best friends. My brother is always there to help when I really need him. My favorite memory is shopping with my sisters, going to lunch and jamming out to music in the car.
What inspiring things about you does your nomination not cover? How much I love my friends. Even friends I’m not super close with. I just love all of them and they are all amazing people. Being social is something that I need and crave. I just enjoy the feelings I have around others. I love to make jokes, make others smile and feel their positive energy. Making friends hasn’t always been easy for me. It was extremely tough and difficult for me to find friends that I could rely on. Going from a big friend group to only one friend was difficult. Now that I am a new high school and didn’t have any friends from Junior High, it’s been a positive experience. Even though I was dealing with this, something good came out of it- I got to spend more time of my family, and myself. I’m so grateful for that and I wouldn’t change anything.
Tell us why you chose Nicole Carson Bonilla Portrait Studio. What was your experience like? What did you love most about it? My family has known Nicole Bonilla for about 20 years. She has become an award-winning photographer in the past 3-4 years, and she offered to take photos of me. She worked with me beforehand, did my hair and makeup, and provided the outfits for the photo shoot. She is so talented and fun to work with and this was so cool to be a part of.
Photography by Nicole Carson Bonilla Portrait Studio
If you were to present a topic to a group of your peers, what would it be and why? I would like to talk about mental health disorders. It’s not talked about enough! Girls and guys are struggling with this and don’t even know it. Just going through any kind of mental disorder is so much for teens and high school adds so much stress to us as well. Worrying about grades and sometime working- it’s just too much for us! I just want teens to feel like than can be open about what’s going on with them, big or small struggles. A big part of it is parents not knowing how to handle it too. I feel that every parent should learn how to handle this if their child ever goes through something hard. This is something that I see happening all around me. It’s hard to see my peers just keeping to themselves and never asking for the help that they deserve.
Look for Natalie in issue 51 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!