“Brush your hair. Match your clothes. Go to school at 7am. Be home by 4pm. And for heaven’s sake, stay focused: no daydreaming.” Isn’t that the advice many parents give their kids? We grow our students to be efficient hard-workers who follow perfectly rehearsed routines. Why? Because we simply love our kids and want them to be successful. Efficient routines build good habits, good resumes, and good careers. But for Nadia Maricic, her father’s advice was a little different. “He taught me to be myself. To not color in the lines, that I don’t have to fit in a box.” With one flip of her blue dreads, it’s easy to see that Nadia beams with her dad’s spirit.
“My dad was an artist. We used to sit and paint to Pink Floyd together,” Nadia said. While her father passed away from a car accident when she was just six-years-old, his passion for art is reflected in every painting, sketch, and sculpture that his daughter’s colorful spirit creates.
The Denver Online High School sophomore started drawing in elementary school but only started painting a year ago. “I got painting supplies in a Black Friday sale. I was super excited,” she said smiling. While she has never had a professional lesson in art, she learned technical skills through YouTube videos and has also participated in the Art Students League of Denver. She said the Art Students League of Denver was, “a way to get together with other teens and collaborate and get ideas and pointers.”
From her artistic beginnings in elementary school, Nadia expressed how her art has evolved over time. While she used to draw single realistic items, a painting entitled “Daddy Longlegs of the Evening” by Salvador Dali transformed her artistic paradigm. “There were so many different parts of it,” she said, “There were so many stories being told.” Instead of drawing single items, she started to fill up entire pages. And not just with realistic images, but with original abstract pieces.
Just as her painting has evolved over time, so has her courage. “I’ve always been very comfortable with the known and been afraid of change,” she expressed. The fifteen-year-old said she always hated the idea of moving, noting the four major moves she had growing up. “But something about the unknown is intriguing,” she said boldly.
And it’s that same courage that now fuels her dreams. Before transferring to Denver Online High School, her former life at her previous school was, in artistic terms, dulling Nadiás portrait. “I didn’t have time to be happy because I was under a pile of robotics,” she said. Those same STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) standards that lead many students to success also dim the vivid imaginative hearts of others. “I would have school all day and then come home and have three plus hours of homework to do… I could only paint like once a week.”
So Nadia took her evolving courage and moved into the online platform with Denver Online. “It was actually one of the best decisions I’ve ever made to be honest,” she said. “I feel liberated. I’m more in control of my own learning.” Just as her paintings transformed from the straight-forward and given approach, her education is starting to become much more unique and full of layers as well.
With the switch to online, Nadia now has the time and location flexibility to pursue her dream. “I can paint every day now,” she said. She also recently participated in the Youth Changing the World Generation No Kid Hungry Art and Writing Contest to raise awareness about childhood hunger. But not only does she have time to paint, she will also graduate with two years of college credit completed through the Denver Online HS concurrent enrollment program that she’ll start in the spring.
But her real adventure starts after high school graduation, still deciding on one of two options. Her first possibility is completing her bachelor’s degree at CU Boulder where she plans to study art or philosophy. Her second possibility? Buying a bus, stripping out the seats, and traveling around the states selling her art. While the latter showcases her adventurous dreams, she plans to go to college if she can secure a scholarship, a likely prospect for the high achieving teen.
By route of college or bus, Nadia ultimately wants to become a professional artist who sells her artwork to make a comfortable living. She has already created a Nadia Feelings facebook page where she showcases her work to be sold and is currently working towards renting wall space in one of the local galleries within the Santa Fe Art District.
While proven processes that run like clockwork keep many students on the path to future success, we all may need a dose of Nadia’s father’s advice. She reminds us of some guidance her dad gave her: “It’s better to be who I am than who someone else wants me to be.” So while some may bock at the inefficiency of coloring outside of that perfectly constructed education box, sometimes students need to be able to forget the hair brushing, wear mismatched clothes, take control of their own academic education, and absolutely, 100%, daydream. After all, students aren’t flawlessly painted exact replications of each other. They are individually distinctive pieces who are worthy of educators who help them not only learn technical skills, but who help them fill their entire education and life canvas with experiences that have depth, significance, and meaning. Let’s paint.