Southeast student finds inspiration in irritation


YODER – Clara Petersen never thought Wyoming’s response to a virus would steer her in the direction of seeking a career, but now, she is set on using her experience to help others.

Petersen is a senior at Southeast High School in Yoder who will be graduating this May with the class of 2021. 

Her parents, Rebecca and Chuck, own a small farm; Chuck works for Torrington Livestock Market and Rebecca works on the farm and helps out the family. Needless to say, agriculture is a big part of her life. 

Petersen is an active participant in the Wyoming High School Rodeo Association (WHSRA) where she competes in barrel racing, goat tying and team roping. She aims to attend Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo., where she will compete in those events as part of the Northeastern Junior College rodeo team.

Though COVID has provided many setbacks, Petersen is pleased with how her senior year has turned out and is thankful she was still able to go to school and be part of the activities she is involved in.

“As far as COVID, it was a rough year this year,” Petersen said. “I’m just happy that we were able to go to school and be able to take part in some of the normal activities, even though we had to take precautions because of the virus.”

School activities are a large part of Petersen’s high school career. She is the coeditor for the yearbook, a member of Southeast National Honor Society, was the 2019-2020 student representative on the school board, has been on student council, is an active participant in 4-H and continues her rodeo career with the WHSRA. 

Last year, when the school was put into quarantine and school was canceled, the junior high and high school rodeo programs were also canceled. Petersen and her brother, Sid, were saddened by their inability to compete as they had spent a lot of time preparing for rodeo events, which they were ultimately unable to compete in. 

Petersen is very thankful for having the opportunity to compete and be involved in this year’s rodeo season. 

Though she was happy to be able to attend school and be involved with activities, the year provided a challenge for her, one she didn’t see coming.

“I have not really struggled with acne throughout my high school career,” Petersen said. “Then, once we started wearing the masks; that was my main struggle; acne and skin irritation.”

She explained how the masks disrupted her school days and ultimately caused her to have difficulty focusing on her schoolwork, even after having tried various types and materials of masks.

“I had my personal issues with the mask because it was irritating my skin,” Petersen said. “It was hard for me to concentrate on what I was doing in the classes because my face was hurting pretty bad.”

Not only did she have trouble concentrating on her schoolwork, but she also felt as though she was losing some of her self-confidence.

“It was hurting my face,” she said. “It kind of ruined a little bit of my confidence. I wasn’t really confident being out in public because of the struggles I was having from the mask. I was very against it. It turned into something I didn’t want to wear to something I wanted to wear to hide my face.”

Despite the challenges presented by wearing the masks, Petersen was happy to have been able to go to school and participate in school activities. 

“In the end, I was still glad we were able to have school, were able to participate in all these things; it was just a struggle,” Petersen said. “I am super happy the variance for the mask mandate was approved. Going back to school after break and not having to wear a mask; it felt like everything was getting back to normal.”

Petersen told the Telegram of another unique event she had witnessed while she was serving as a teaching assistant in Tennille Grosz’ fourth grade class at Southeast Elementary School.

With the mask mandate going into effect for the entirety of the school district and the start of the school year, Petersen had never seen any of the children’s faces, though she had been working with them for some time.

“It was really fun getting to see all of their faces for the first time since we didn’t have to wear masks,” she said.

Petersen’s experience led to her decide upon a future career choice.

“It kind of started with COVID,” she said. “I started exploring some careers and I thought it would be really neat to become an esthetician; they specialize in skin care, providing treatments, such as facials, and helping people to have their skin be the best that it can be.”

With these aspirations, she plans to earn a certificate in cosmetology and study business while attending Northeastern Junior College. From there, Petersen is considering attending the University of Wyoming and a trade school to become a certified esthetician. 

“I had never heard of what an esthetician is or what they do,” she said. “Honestly, I wouldn’t have even known if it wasn’t for COVID, because it got me exploring some skin care career options and it sounded like something I would really enjoy doing.”

Petersen explained the trade and her motivation to become an esthetician.

“Ultimately, what an esthetician does is they help others to achieve clearer skin,” she said. “I’ve had clear skin my whole life and once we started wearing the masks and everything took place, my face started to peel from the mask irritation, and it caused a lot of pain. It was super uncomfortable for me.”

Petersen’s irritation caused her to visit a doctor in search of treatment to help overcome the pain and discomfort. 

“It made me feel a lot better to get help,” she said. “My skin is finally starting to get back to normal and I thought, ‘that’s what I want to make a career out of.’ The amount of joy that it brought me to get my clear skin back, that’s what I want to bring to other people as well.” 

Petersen is unsure as to what she will do after her schooling, but she hopes to work in a small community like Torrington. 

“Ultimately, overall, I want to bring services to a rural community,” she said. “These are mainly services that are offered in urban areas and big cities and I think it would be cool to bring that to a smaller community like Torrington.”

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