One of my mother’s most important decisions was sending me to Harding Fine Arts, a charter school in Oklahoma City. She decided to send me there for a few reasons. First, my brother has Down Syndrome, and we had a negative experience with him in traditional public schools. He needed to get the help and attention he needed. My neighborhood also was not very safe, which meant our local public school had some problems. Lastly, I loved art and music, so Harding seemed to be a good fit.
It was! I played violin, piano, and guitar and worked hard throughout school to improve progressively. I was terrible at violin at first, but I took private lessons with one of the Harding teachers, and by my junior year, I was the “first chair” in my section.
Class sizes were smaller than in a traditional public school, so my teachers could get to know me and push me. They encouraged me to get involved in my community through Youth Leadership Exchange, a civics program that changed my life. I shadowed our city councilors, got wired into the non-profit community, and even learned how to fundraise for charitable organizations.
I’m an undocumented student, so many state-backed financial resources for college are unavailable to me. Luckily, I was able to get scholarship assistance through Leadership Exchange, the Latino Community Development Agency, the Bridget Brewer Scholarship, and many other private scholarships, which paid for almost all of my tuition at the University of Oklahoma. I ended up graduating with majors in Psychology and Spanish.
Today I work to provide community programming and resource navigation for families of children with special needs or disabilities. Seeing how government social services interact with non-profits at Leadership Exchange has been a real benefit at my current job. I’m also getting to turn my “creativity motor” back on since I do a lot of programming for children. Kids, especially those with conditions like autism, respond to programming with music, a lot of bright colors, and tactile stimulation, so I’m grateful to have had an education emphasizing art at Harding.
My experience at Harding Fine Arts was incredibly positive, and I am so grateful for my teachers there. I hope every child finds a school that is a great fit for them.