I’ve had one of the most amazing opportunities this year. I’ve been able to work as an intern at ArtMix, a program that works to redefine disabilities through art. I’ve always had a a love for art and a love for my peers that have what are considered “mental handicaps” so this internship has been the perfect combination.
If you ask me though these students are anything but “mentally handicapped” sure they might take a little longer to do tasks than you and I, and they might not respond the way you would expect them to but they love so deeply, and their personalities are so genuine and full of kindness. I’ve worked with the same group of students for 8 months now, helping to teach them life skills through art so that they may get a job after highschool, as a traditional route of pursuing secondary education such as college isn’t usually the path they take, which is totally okay!
I’ve referred to these 9 souls as “my kiddos” even though most of them are my age if not older than me. I’ve gotten to work with them and help teach them things, so in my eyes they’ve become my kiddos. However as much as I’ve taught them I’ve learned so much more from them! I’ve learned and have come to understand each of their individual personalities and strengths. One of the greatest parts of my week is getting to work with them Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I only have about a month left with them which breaks my heart and I’ve been reflecting a lot on it lately because they bring so much joy to my life. I want to share with you each of their personalities and what they’ve taught me in hopes of breaking the stigma of “mental handicaps,” these young adults posess so much potential should we give them what they need to succeed, which I truly believe is our responsibility!
I’m going to go left to right from the picture below and share with you “my kiddos.”
Kai is on the far left, he joined my group just this semester so he has only been with the group for half of the time, he is also the youngest. However despite these circumstances he has quickly picked up on the skills and jobs taught in the studio and does work comparative to all of his other peers which is truly amazing! He is a fast learner, and also a eager learner! He is always looking for new jobs and asking for critique on his work. Each day I drive him back to school with me and the first thing he says when he gets in the car is an evaluation of how the day went for him, and how he thought he did. He is so honest about his work ethic that day, and is always sure to problem solve ways in which he might be able to improve his work. Kai is also tremendously friendly and outgoing, he is always sure to ask me everyday how my day is going. He has taught me to always go into things with a positive outlook, and should I not succeed the way I had planned, to re-evaluate how I approached things and problem solve alternatives.
Cassandra is one of the sweetest souls I have ever met on this earth. She comes in everyday ready to work and excited about it, she greets everyone each morning. She often sings while doing her jobs, and has a laugh I will never forget. Cassandra is my gossip girl in the group, she’s always up to date on what’s happening in the news as far as celebrities and pop singers go. She knows more than even I do sometimes! Cassandra is always willing to help everyone and anyone, she goes above and beyond when it comes to help. Cassandra is hard driven, she doesn’t give up when she doesn’t get something right the first time, she sticks at it and continues until she succeeds, and succeeds she definitely does! Cassandra has taught me to stick with my goals, and to not give up on them if they seem too hard, or out of reach.
Dustin is the goof in the group, he is always the one to crack jokes, and make others laugh. He is quite the trickster and is always sure to pull pranks on others. Dustin works at a slow pace on his tasks but never lets that stop him from finishing them. He has a pride in his school and peers I have never seen in anyone before. Every Thursday he informs me of the football or basketball game coming up for his school, and who their opponent will be. The next Tuesday he always comes in with a report on wether they won or not, and what the score was. Dustin has taught me to have patience in myself, and to know my own pace and not push myself past my capabilities. He has also taught me to have pride in things around me.
Jordan is hiding in the back but he is there. His personality however never hides, he is always singing and talking up a storm amongst the group. Jordan has the sweetest soul, he always checks on me after a weekend and asks how my time was. He asks about my friends, and family and if I enjoyed my break. Jordan is a lover of many things and it always shows through his personality, he is passionate about what he loves. Jordan is good at his work, he is dilligent and makes sure his work is always of the best quality. Jordan has taught me to care for others, and to take interest in their lives, he has taught me to be proud of the things I love and to find things to be passionate about.
Chelsea is the most observant in the group, always surveying her surroundings, which you can very clearly see in the picture. Chelsea knows her strengths and capabilities and isn’t afraid to speak up if a task might not be in her skills range, she is determined to find something she is good at. Chelsea is always looking out for her best friend Cassandra, and making sure everyone in the group is staying on task. Chelsea has taught me to not be afraid to speak up when something might be out of my capabilities range, and to not settle for something I don’t appreciate doing. She has also taught me to look out for those around me.
Sarah is a teacher by nature, she is very quiet but always around to help. Sarah is the first one to step up when someone needs assistance wether it be tying an apron, or teaching a peer a new task. Sarah is one of the most skilled in the group, and also the oldest. She is like the mother hen out of the group. She is loving and takes care of those around her. Sarah has taught me to be patient with those around me, and to always stop and help others when I can.
Devon is the shy one in the group, he is comfortable on his own and prefers to be that way. He does his work with great success, he is very good at specific tasks and does them to perfection. He is very specific about making sure everything he does is of greatness. Devon is humble. Devon has taught me to take care of myself, and listen to myself. He had also taught me to strive for excellence in my work.
Salena is such a bright soul. She has faced many obstacles throughout the year but always shows up to the studio and does her best work. She is such a cheerful soul and never complains. Salena has taught me to push through obstacles and have a positive outlook on life.
Nate, nate is one of a kind. Nate is eager to work and walks into the studio every day with the biggest smile. Nate has a huge heart and is very passionate about his interests. Nate may not communicate like you or I would but he expresses himself in other ways.nate is so smart and is a great example of how just because it may not be evident by looking at him, does not mean he doesn’t posess knowledge. Nate has taught me to simply love life, and to love it greatly despite the bad. Nate has taught me to smile, and to smile often.
My kiddos may be handicapped in your eyes but in mine they are perfect. They defy odds, they endure things you and I will never understand yet they get out of bed every day. They never fail to make me laugh, and will always turn my bad days into great days. I will forever be greatful for these souls as they have taught me more than you will ever know.