Student at Heart: Grace Clark to Continue Her Bar-Raising Journey at KSC
It is hard not to take Grace Elisabeth Clark ‘26 at her word when she describes herself as “a bit of an old soul.”
The incompatibility of that self-description, however, is that the rising first-year Keene State student is but 18 years old.
It could be her Christian roots. Her deep love of family. Maturity and intuition that belie her age; that is another explanation.
Just as likely it could be Grace’s subtle but steady preoccupation with being the difference-maker in the world that she imagines.
Thirst for knowledge. Regard for others. Appreciation for connections, community and history. These, too, are perfectly acceptable “old soul” defenses.
More likely, it is a unique combination of all the above.
Add it up any way, one thing is clear: From her earliest school years, Grace has been making her mark in the classroom, winning plaudits for her achievements and respect for her authenticity and her intellect, and making it known that this is just the beginning.
The 2022 Monadnock Regional High School valedictorian will continue her educational pursuits, ambitious as they are, at Keene State, a 15-minute drive from her small hometown of Troy, where she, her parents and a younger sister live in the same home her father, Stanley, a local church pastor, was raised.
In the current climate, where we are seeing lot of change in education policy, this is perfect for her. She has a loud voice, but an empathetic voice.”
– Alexis D’Amboise
Grace is enrolled in the college’s Morris-August Honors Program for the institution’s highest-achieving students, in this case for all majors and backgrounds who share a demonstrated love for learning, curiosity and matters of civic consequence, global and domestic.
A person that thrives in the ebb and flow of the day-to-day life of being a student, Grace will pursue a degree in education and legal studies and a minor in professional writing. Her goal, she says affirmingly, is a career in policy writing and educational law.
“Making positive change for public education is what I want to do,” Grace says. “I want education to be as excellent an experience as it can be and one that supports the most students possible. Through legislation, policy reform, programs, whatever means; really the entire process for improving education … that is what I am most passionate about.”
Alexis D’Amboise is one of Grace’s high school teachers, and herself a Keene State graduate, Class of 2006. D’Amboise had Grace for English Honors in 10th grade, AP Language and Composition in 11th grade, and guided Grace’s capstone project when Grace was a senior. Grace says D’Amboise’s classes were among her favorites, noting that three of four significant research papers she wrote for her classes had education themes.
“She loves all facets of education; it’s just a core part of her personality,” D’Amboise says. “She understands how much knowledge is out there … how much she still has to learn.
“In the current climate,” D’Amboise says, “where we are seeing lot of change in education policy, this is perfect for her. She has a loud voice, but an empathetic voice.”
In that senior capstone project, Grace created the School Betterment Initiative and worked with Lisa Spencer, the principal of the high school, on the creation of an Extracurricular Handbook, Class Council Handbook, Proposal to Amend Film Policy, and other morale-related projects in conjunction with Student Government.
As of her last hearing, the Proposal to Amend Film Policy was in queue for review by the Policy Committee.
“I can report, however, that the chair of the board expressed heavily positive feedback on my work when it was first shared with her,” Grace says.
Grace was 12 years old when the region’s local newspaper, The Keene Sentinel, wrote a page one profile to highlight her artistic talents, volunteerism, and academic proficiency. A that time, she sported high school-level reading comprehension scores, math acumen well above her grade level, was teaching Sunday School and helping to student teach preschool.
She designed a logo for a startup nonprofit in her hometown, and teachers even then singled out her innate ability to help classmates and, in general, lift people up.
“I’m a pretty positive person,” she says. “I look at life on the bright side if you will. I’m a Christian; I see good and potential in people.”
“A huge part of it is what God’s doing in my life. Obviously, people do terrible things, and we live in a challenging world, but my nature is to focus on the positive.”
While her aspiration of wanting to be a teacher has shifted, her regard for learning, and helping others to harness that spirit as a quality-of-life benefit, remains constant.
“The education program at Keene State is part of what drew me to come here,” she said recently during a visit to campus. “Now I have some business part in my degree, and a marketing aspect, all of which is going to help me to work to remove the red tape and protocols that get in the way of change. That’s when you can make complex things accessible.”
“Being valedictorian, that is kind of a dream come true,” says Grace, noting that her mother, Jessica, was the top student in her high school graduating class, in Delaware.
“It’s the culmination of all the hard work done,” she says.
She did not hesitate in saying that her family was her biggest inspiration and blessing.
“Since I was little,” she says, “the importance of academics and being intellectual was emphasized.”
Bert Poirier, senior associate director of admissions at Keene State, calls Grace special for a host of reasons, including her passion, happiness and that ubiquitous positive energy.
“Grace sees going to college as a new life that is about to begin,” he says. “She also brings to our college community hope and optimism because of her strong sense of self-awareness and ability to relate to people from all walks of life.”
As part of the honors program, Grace will live at The Commons, which is home to the college’s Living and Learning Communities (LLC) and Themed Housing for first-year students. The Commons boasts five themed communities – Grace will be in the Honors Community – that provide a variety of opportunities for more than 300 students to pursue their academic and co-curricular goals in a safe, supportive and dynamic environment where faculty, staff and residence life directors work collaboratively.
She said first-semester classes were hard to pick, but she landed with Intro to Education, International Relations, Logical Argumentation, Integrative Thinking & Writing and First-Year Seminar.
In her graduation speech as the school’s top academic-performing student, Grace appealed to her Monadnock classmates to find purpose in truth and to build on the past.
“It is at this pinnacle moment, this crossroads of youthful innovation and matured expertise, when we are truly limitless,” she told her peers from the crowd-facing stage. “In each one of us there lies an incredible potency of ability that is hindered only by our own ability to believe in it.”
“Class, it is my urge to you all today to see potential not as an ethereal expression of human achievement, but a reflection of the best version of ourselves that is fully capable of being realized.”
Grace graduated from Monadnock this year with the Diploma of Distinction and the N.H. STEM Scholars Recognition. Her school and community resumes are long and varied.
School highlights include St. Michael’s College Book Award for Social Conscience, AP Scholar Award from the College Board, RIT Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizens Award state nominee, First Congregational Church of Swanzey Scholarship, Elks Scholarship, French Honors Cord for four years of language learning; Class Council, National Honor Society, Prom Committee, Superintendent’s Club and Yearbook.
Community highlights include multiple ministries at the Troy Trinitarian Congregational Church, including the Children’s Ministry as the nursery director, Vacation Bible School leader, pageant director and outreach coordinator. Additionally, Grace has volunteered as the public graphic designer for the Troy Police Department, designing media to communicate events and services.
“It’s funny,” Grace said, “but a selectman in our town used to say, ‘I will see you at your inauguration.’”
“That was always really sweet of him to say,” Grace added, furtively, with the caveat that the Oval Office is not and never has been her desired destination.
But we will just leave that there for posterity, be they famous last words … or not.