ENCINITAS — A 13-year-old Encinitas resident was recently named Junior Artist of the Year for the San Diego-North County region in the 15th Annual National Youth Arts Awards competition.
Gracie Howard, an eighth-grade student at The Rhoades School in Encinitas, won the award based on three primary performances over the past year, including starring as the title character in Star Repertory Theater’s “Matilda.”
Gracie was also acknowledged for her role as Flounder in Star Repertory Theatre’s “The Little Mermaid” and for her National Video Showcase Reel of “Killer Instinct” from the Broadway musical “Bring it On.”
“I feel so honored to have received this award,” Gracie told The Coast News in an email. “Some of the best things in life are the unexpected surprises that come our way. This was definitely one of those for me and I am really very grateful.”
Additionally, in 2019 and 2020, Gracie performed the roles in Moonlight Youth Theater’s “Junie B Jones” (Lucille); Blue Rose Theater Project’s “Matilda” (Mrs. Wormwood) and sang “You’ve Got Possibilities” with The Broadway Artists Connection in New York City.
Melissa Howard, Gracie’s mother, said one of the most attractive things about her daughter’s personality and character is her modesty and how much of a cheerleader she is for others.
“Although she is always very excited to hear the news of these recognitions, (Gracie) remains very humble and low key in sharing them,” Melissa Howard said.
Gracie has been involved in performing arts since age 4, starting in her first live theater performance in San Diego Junior Theater’s showcase of “Go, Dog, Go!” She made her professional theater debut playing the role of Alice in Moonlight Stage Production’s “Matilda” in 2019-20 (Over her career, Gracie has played various characters in several different theater company’s productions of “Matilda”).
In addition to live theater, Gracie has appeared twice as a contestant on FOX Network’s Master Chef Junior. She has also started her own nonprofit baking organization, “A Little Bite of Heaven,” raising money for multiple organizations to assist both people and animals.
Gracie is also a voracious learner and has received first-place awards in the 2020 Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair, qualifying for the state competition and Broadcom MASTERS, the nation’s leading middle school STEM competition.
The Cardiff thespian also received the Director’s Choice Award for her entry in San Diego’s Write Out Loud (RIC) Read, Imagine, Create) competition, creating a cookbook with original recipes and illustrations in relation to a selected book of poetry.
Gracie also enjoys art, drawing, volleyball and playing piano and ukulele.
“I also want to congratulate every single person who received awards from (National Youth Arts),” Gracie said, with a special thanks to NYA founder Rob Hopper. “I know there were a lot of them. A big part of winning is being able to share in the successes of everyone.”