At just 17 year old, Miss Bricktown's Outstanding Teen Paula Smith has decided to draw on life experience to spread support for the arts in school during her reign. The junior at the Classen School for Advanced Studies has experienced tragedy and used art to bounce back.
"I try and block it all out," said Paula Smith, as dozens of students speed by her between classes.
Smith sits at a table in a hallway, working on her latest piece of art. The commotion does not faze her. There are students singing, playing instruments and talking about the latest gossip.
"They're always playing music and music really is, it's kind of peaceful for me," she said. "I love the violins."
As Smith uses a black marker to draw, she reflects on a moment that changed her outlook on life. Just more than a year ago, Smith lost her best friend and fellow Classen SAS student Dajia Brown in a tragic accident.
Brown was with two other girls on Highway 51 in Payne County when the van they were riding in broke down. While they were trying to push the van, another car crashed into them, killing Brown and another classmate.
"Losing her was a tragedy," she said. "I didn't want to talk to anyone. I didn't want to be around anyone. Losing someone so close to me, someone that I knew personally, I was a mess."
The loss changed Smith. She tried not to take any moment for granted.
"I think about her a lot. She is my inspiration."
Six months into her reign as Miss Bricktown's Outstanding Teen, Smith can open up about the loss and how art helped her through the most difficult time of her young life.
"I didn't really realize the magnitude of how art helped me until after that happened," explained Smith. "Art really is my outlet and it really can help me get over this tough time."
Now Paula spreads the message to other kids looking for an outlet that art is an option. She invited News 9 along as she visited her elementary school in Oklahoma City.
"If you can't talk about it to someone, then art is there for you. That is your tool that you can use to express yourself whenever you're feeling down."
She wants these kids to express those emotions by drawing on the positives all around them.
"I really had time to deal with what had gone on because I'm sitting there and I'm sitting in such a quiet and peaceful environment," she explained. "The sun is out. It's such an inspirational place for me to be able to create art, but also take time to think about anything that's going on in my mind."
Smith is visiting schools throughout Oklahoma City. Each class she visits creates a banner of hope, a symbol that art can help heal the heart.