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'She's at home at her easel'
A sixth-grade honor student wants to be a pediatrician. For now, art's her thing.
By PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE, Times Correspondent
Published January 17, 2008
Sixth-grader Sierra Ruiz, a student at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, holds her paintings of Zeus and Zoie, two popular therapy dogs that visit the school weekly.
[Photo by Paulette Lash Ritchie]
SPRING HILL - A school that leans toward the structure of math and science may seem an unlikely place for an artist to flourish, but sixth-grader Sierra Ruiz is doing just fine at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics.
Sierra, 11, is an honor roll student and a gifted artist. Evidence of her talent hangs in guidance counselor Monica Lovett's office: two paintings of Lovett's Rottweilers, Zeus and Zoie.
Lovett is a certified therapy dog handler and Zeus and Zoie visit Challenger regularly. So much so that they have their own school badges.
"They've been through a lot of schooling for this," Lovett said of her dogs.
Sierra is one of the school's many dog lovers and she loves to draw. She started in art class when she was 6. "One day we just noticed in her coloring what a perfectionist she was," said her mother, Angie Ruiz.
Sierra lives with her mother, her father, Pete Ruiz, and her brother, Maxx Ruiz, who attends Nature Coast Technical High School.
Sierra likes to work in pastels and watercolors, although acrylics are her favorite medium. She likes to draw animals and landscapes. In sixth grade, she painted a portrait of Zoie and won third place in the PTSA Reflections Contest.
"She probably would have placed first," Lovett said, explaining that because of a misunderstanding Sierra did not paint the correct subject, which was "your favorite place."
Once, at a display of student artwork at the Weeki Wachee attraction, a foreign visitor liked a drawing of shells that Sierra had done and bought it.
"Her art teacher was excited," Angie Ruiz said.
Sierra gave her place-winning painting of Zoie to Lovett, and then she surprised the counselor with a matching painting of Zeus as a Christmas gift.
Others on the school staff are interested in copies of the paintings. "We have several requests for the pictures," Lovett said.
Sierra would like to be a pediatrician, but she plans to continue with her interest in art. "She's at home at her easel," Angie Ruiz said, "and art class is her favorite place to go. We have a huge portfolio at home."