For most upperclassmen, junior year is the time where you begin strengthening the connections and work established in the previous two years. For Grace White, however, a transfer from Denver, it’s a time for new beginnings.
“Adjusting [to Valpo] has been super easy and the coaching staff is making it even easier, and I have a great team,” White said.
White has been surrounded by and immersed in sports for as long as she can remember.
“Growing up I was just always around [basketball]. My dad was a basketball coach and my brother played,” White said. “Growing up I played all [kinds of] sports, but there’s just more of a connection with my dad, my brother and me [through basketball]. Growing up playing basketball was like Red Lake’s thing - it’s all we really had as a community.”
This community that White describes is her home - a Native American reservation in Minnesota.
“It’s a super small community,” White said. “You know everybody somehow - whether it’s your friend’s cousin or your mom’s friend she grew up with… I feel like you’re connected to just about everybody and you know them. Their support has been so huge for me - they back me with every decision I make and are always so strong and showing support for me.”
White’s college journey has been a particularly unique one, as she is the first member of her tribe to play Division 1 athletics.
“It’s pretty crazy because I didn’t really know… how to go Division 1 or what steps I would take or even how I would get there… growing up. [In] seventh grade my brother and my aunt would just makes joke like ‘1D Bound’ or little things like that, so I just really got serious about it.”
White’s commitment to officially play at the Division 1 level was a big event for her entire community.
“It was a huge thing,” said White. “One of my teachers set up the whole signing thing and it was the first real signing day, and the whole gym was filled and the community came out. It was just a really great achievement for my tribe and for my people.”
But White’s ambitions and goals go beyond the basketball court.
“I definitely want to give back to my community and really work on building a platform where I’m able to reach out to as many kids as I can and just let them know that they can do what they set their mind to and do it from wherever they come from, whatever expectations they have held on them, or whether they have no expectations held on them,” she said. “They’re able to do things they don’t think are possible or have never seen before. I just want to be able to travel to different schools and reach out to different native kids and just help the youth as much as I can.”
These dreams are motivated by a strong connection to family, her community, and a desire to help others.
“My brother passed away four years ago this November and growing up… he was always the one who would get me up at six and be like ‘let’s go to the gym,’” White said.
White adds that her brother was someone who was very motivated and had all the drive in the world, also pushing her to have that drive.
“[He’d] throw my ball across the gym so I’d do an extra sprint or something like that,” White said.
Growing up, White recalls girls wanting to take pictures with her and becoming someone people looked up to, which motivated her even more.
“I just feel like it gives me this level of importance and just knowing that eyes are on me really motivates me to continue to do well and to be the best I can.”