GREAT FALLS — Each year the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation honors high-achieving students and two designated teachers selected by each of those students during their annual Excellence In Education awards ceremony. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s assembly will not take place, but one person from each of the three high schools recognized by the foundation - Great Falls High School, C.M. Russell High School, and Paris Gibson Education Center - will be highlighted on air and on our website. Today we are featuring PGEC senior Dani Hardesty.
Dani Hardesty is one of four honorees from the Paris Gibson Education Center selected to be a part of this year’s Excellence in Education program.
Hardesty belongs to a Blackfeet veteran family and is the first of her two older siblings to graduate high school. “I actually come from one of the largest Blackfeet veteran families and I think that like really makes me stand tall...I just always wanted to make my family proud,” Hardesty said.
The high-achieving student plans to attend Great Falls College-MSU for her General Education and aspires to one day join the military and study political science. She credits the enjoyment of her education to her mentors. “The teachers here...they actually really care about you...You feel really comfortable with them. I think that’s what really brought me out of my shell too is because these teachers are great,” Hardesty said.
Her commitment to her education and culture have instilled pride not only within her parents, but her mentors, Paris Gibson Education Center Principal Drew Uecker and Paris Gibson Education Center Advisor Curtis Valladolid as well.
“Dani was an interesting kiddo...she’s an absolutely outstanding student, honor student in many areas...takes a lotta pride in her culture...she is just a very very special unique young lady,” Uecker said.
Dani’s advisor agreed, explaining how captivating her cultural interest was. “I've never had a student quite like Dani who knew bits of her culture but was so hungry to learn more about her native culture,” Valladolid said.
Both of Hardesty’s mentors are certain the senior has a bright future ahead of her.
“I see her using her law degree to help her Native American people...I think she could really benefit her community and I know her heart’s in going back to her reservation to help there,” Valladolid said.
“She’s looking to go to school for political science...but whatever Dani does, she will be successful at, without any doubt,” Uecker said.
Even after she graduates next week, the staff at PGEC say Hardesty is always welcome to return.
“It’s never a farewell with Dani because she’ll always come back. She knows that Paris is her family - that we will support her,” Uecker said.