FARMINGTON —Chelsea Waite feels better about showng her art projects publicly after winning the New Mexico Youth Art Month contest.

A Farmington High School senior taking an independent art study class, Waite was surprised to learn she had won the state contest to produce a flag design influenced by the state of New Mexico.

"It's exciting, when I entered it, I never thought I would win," Waite said. "People that didn't know I did art were like, Wow, that's cool, you're an artist.'"

Prompted by her teacher Sherri Smith, Waite was one of a handful of students in her class who entered the contest.

Smith had heard about the contest at a New Mexico Art Education Association meeting, where members were asking for more state representation.

The association sponsored the contest along with art company Sargent Art.

"I think it's awesome, she deserves it," Smith said. "She's a great student with a great personality and is very mature."

The challenge was to incorporate the Youth Art Month symbol in a flag design using imagery Waite believed represented the state of New Mexico.

"I wanted to use the Zia symbol, I liked how the lines would do pretty much anything I wanted," Waite said. "I wanted to represent diversity, (New Mexico) has so many diverse cultures living in it. I wanted to show the lines going in different directions but still being part of one complete symbol."

Waite also chose to include drawings of the Yucca flower as a metaphor for how she believes New Mexico is a diamond in the rough amongst the other states in the Southwest.

"The Yucca flower isn't very pretty in contrast to other flowers in the world but it symbolizes New Mexico," Waite said. "There are so many cool places to visit and it's not known. But if you look close at the flowers, they do have beauty. That's where I wanted to go, to show New Mexico is pretty and worth seeing."

Smith and Waite learned that Waite won the contest last year but were unaware the award included an all-expenses paid trip to New York City for them and one parent until last week.

Waite will be joining the winners from each state at a banquet in New York City, which will include a tour of the city's art galleries.

Above all, Waite is feeling more confident about her skills as an artist.

"I didn't feel my art was any good, so I didn't really show it to people," Waite said. "I feel like this gave me the confidence to go, I want to show it to the world.' Just the confidence I needed."