Liberty High graduate says illness brought her to art

Caprina Smith, 17, is graduating from Liberty High School this year and heading to the University of Miami to study creative advertising. She has spent much of her high school career focusing on art and shows some of her work here.

Caprina Smith, 17, completed two AP art portfolios in her senior year at Liberty High School: one for drawing and one for two-dimensional digital art.

An art teacher who has known Smith since she began spending more time in the art department, Lauren Latane-Valis, said she goes above and beyond and doing two projects is rare.


"She is [an] anomaly," she said.

Smith, however, said it was a simple decision for her.

"I fell in love with both mediums," she said this week. "I love to paint and I love photography, and I was determined to create my own personal concentrations. I wanted that creative freedom and opportunity," she said.

But art almost wasn't the path she chose.

In Smith's freshman and sophomore years, she learned she had a Lyme co-infection when she lost mobility in her hands and found she couldn't be the soccer and basketball star she originally dreamed of becoming.

"I was very fatigued," she said while walking through the halls at Liberty with her notebook and water bottle toward her portfolios on display, "so I tried to find other activities."

While battling the infection, doctors first wanted Smith to try medication to treat arthritis, but her parents took her to a doctor specializing in integrative medicine for a second opinion. The doctor, she said, recommended Smith stop eating wheat and dairy instead — a suggestion that changed her life.

Mobility returned to her hands and she could write again, Smith said, and even though she knew she wouldn't participate in sports or band again, she could live like a normal kid.

She then found Andrea Rowinski's Art I class, where she learned she had an artistic bent.

"She was really quiet," Rowinski said. "She was very quiet and I still remember her first project. She did this collage project and it was amazing — both in its technique and also it was like, a bit deeper. Everybody else did, 'Tell me about yourself: I love the beach' … She did this half-face of an animal half-face with a human and did it all with beauty products.

"You could tell right away she was a kid who not only had the talent, but also had a lot to say and was able to express it," she said. "So I knew right away she was going to do more stuff in our art department. Sometimes we just know. It's so exciting. You get this student and you run over to the other art teacher and go, 'Look at this!' She was that student."

The discovery paved the way for her to create the school's Mural Team with her friend Caroline Maerten — a club where she coordinated the painting of various walls in the high school with graffiti-style spray-painted lions over a royal blue background and the school's name in big block letters.

Smith also became president of the National Art Honor Society, historian of student government, co-hair and make-up designer for the drama department, and played the role of Ursula in Liberty's production of "The Little Mermaid" this year.

Scenes from Liberty High School's 2018 graduation ceremony at McDaniel College in Westminster Friday, June 8, 2018.

Now Smith plans to continue her studies in the creative advertising program at the University of Miami so she can work toward honing her creativity and combining it with business skills.


"I think that the major that she's chosen is really excellent for her because it's going to allow her to kind of combine all her skills and interests and abilities," Latane-Valis said. "She's a smart kid; she's smart and she knows she needs to have a plan. If she wants to make money in an artistic career, she needs to be prepared.

"She's smart and so she knows that kind of combining the business aspect with the creative aspect is going to make her really marketable," she said. "She's incredibly talented, she's a great leader, people respond really well to her — she's genuinely helpful and motivating to others. She's going to be amazing in Miami. She's going to do really well just like she has here."

And with her leadership mentality, she might be able to achieve a dream that's much different from those she had when she started her at Liberty.

"I always kind of wanted to be the CEO of a makeup company," Smith said. "I had big dreams and I figured it was something that was creative. And I always wanted to be in charge of something.

"Hopefully I will be able to make connections [in Miami] and stay there, or they can connect me [to] places," she said. "I loved my childhood here, but I'm ready to explore and see what else is out there."

Liberty High School 2018 Graduation Stats

Students graduating: 310

Students going to a four-year college: 179

Students going to a two-year college: 79

Students going to a technical school: 3

Students going into the military: 6

Students joining the work force: 21

Co-valedictorians: Kevin Manogue and Andrew Olson