By Sierra Earnhart
Greenwood High School
Headstrong, caring and diverse, India Rice is far from ordinary. She’s homecoming queen, a strong student with a 3.3 GPA, and a teen reporter for Vox ATL.
But behind Rice’s striking, deep-brown eyes, lies a heartbreaking past.
Her uncle, Devin Smith, was murdered on Christmas Eve when she was 13 years old.
She woke up to her grandmother screaming. She found her brother in the bathroom where he had locked himself for hours. She watched her dad cry for the first time. Rice was emotionally paralyzed in the moment.
“That was probably one of the most traumatizing moments in my life,” Rice said.
On top of that, Rice’s father also had congestive heart failure at the time. A defibrillator that was installed had ultimately failed. Shortly after, Rice’s father got an LVAD. An LVAD is an electromagnetic device that completely replaces the function of his heart.
“A machine is completely running his heart,” Rice said. “At first, it was really hard for me to accept because it was life changing, but it reminded me that life is really short. It made me more cautious over exactly what was going on.”
Both Rice and her father are well and living happy and fulfilling lives. Rice’s father credits the doctors for his well-being, but Rice credits her granddad for hers.
“During my uncle’s funeral, he showed me the positives in every situation and he reminded me to focus on them. He made the situation better,” Rice said. “One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was forgive my uncle’s murder. My granddad told me that life is much more fulfilling if you live it with joy and not hate.”
Being exposed to so many cultures as a child has inspired Rice to reach out to people from all walks of life.
“I’m a military brat,” Rice said with a laugh.
Born in Columbus, Georgia, to a father in the military, Rice has traveled everywhere from South Korea to Hawaii. In 2014, her dad medically retired and settled in Atlanta.
“There are amazing people to see. You never know what someone is like beneath the surface,” said Rice.
However, in Rice’s search for other’s individuality, she felt she started to lose herself.
“Have you ever felt misunderstood?” Rice said.
At 14, as Rice was trying to find her place in the world, she turned to journalism and felt at home.
“Journalism helped me figure myself out. It gave me something much greater worth fighting for,” said Rice, now 16 and a rising junior at Atlanta’s Westlake High School.
And what is it that Rice wants to fight for? Individuals who were in the exact same spot she was. Rice hopes to unite people through writing by creating a platform where everyone can feel accepted.
It’s not just writing where Rice hopes to reach out to her community, it’s at her school, too.
“I like to talk to the kids that no one wants to sit with at lunch,” Rice said.
Rice wants her peers to understand that she’s not going to judge them. She wishes the most for everybody and strives to see others breakout of their shells. Rice just wants people to be themselves.
“I think it’s important for you to live your life how you want to live and not live it based off other people and their expectations,” Rice said.