As an incoming freshman at Messiah College, I was determined to become a Special Education teacher upon graduation, following the four years ahead. My major and future trajectory path completely changed halfway through my sophomore year, but let me back-track to the most inspiring encounter, in regards to Special Education, I experienced as a junior in high school. This one event sparked my interest in both art and the healing of children.
In high school, as a member of National Honor Society, the administration expects one to participate in volunteer activities. Back then, I loved the idea of volunteering but had minimal experience prior to the coerced involvement. The first event that I helped with was the Annual Elementary School Carnival, and I was in charge of the face-painting station. Combining both my artistic knowledge and my compassion for children, my art teacher at the time reassured me that I would enjoy myself in this position; I did, and more.
I remember these moments in slow-motion and the memory will always give me goosebumps. A woman, a TSS, tapped me on the shoulder, and I turned around. She stood next to a young girl, situated in a wheelchair, who only came to the carnival to get her face painted. I knelt down beside her and asked her what she would like me to paint.
“A butterfly,” she said.
I asked her what colors, and I remember her favorites were pink and purple.
It took me about twenty minutes to paint the butterfly because she had little control of her actions and movements, and I adored every second I spent with her.
I will never forget when I showed her the reflection of her cheek with the butterfly. Her face lit up and she smiled so big, clapped, and giggled. It was one of the sweetest interactions I have ever had, and so I realized that I wanted to work with children like her and hopefully someday make them smile with something as simple as a butterfly.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college, I met Dani. Dani and I had one thing in common: our knowledge of art therapy. Prior to my face-painting experience, I was planning to become an art therapist, so I had done plenty of research about the field and still felt a passion for its growth. More people need to know about the opportunity that art can provide.
When Dani and I started Art Beyond the Classroom, our passion for art and children allowed our dreams to flourish. Dani desires to become an Art Therapist in the near future, and I know she will be the perfect fit. Our symbol of reference is coincidentally the butterfly, because for both of us, there is special meaning and intent behind the beautiful creature.
After being stationed at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital alongside Dani, I was blown away by the support and excitement that both we and the children received for the art project. Our overseers work in the field of Child Life, which is a career path that I was not familiar with at the time. After leaving our first session, I remarked to Dani “This is crazy but I can see myself doing what they do, working in a hospital,” which is something I never imagined I would say.
So, I decided to change my major to Human Development and Family Science. I am currently in my second year of the major and I could not be happier. My dream is ultimately to become a Certified Child Life Specialist at a hospital and to provide a source of hope for children who are losing theirs.
The alteration of my career path is only a minimal result of the transformation I have seen in myself since Art Beyond the Classroom officially launched. I am able to see past a child’s diagnosis and see the child for who she or he truly is. That is crucial in order for the hospital setting to become normalized for a child and his or her family. Children are our future, and we, as a generation, need to do everything in our power to provide them with love, care, and a sense of hope, even in the most difficult circumstances. Although I cannot personally relate to each child’s medical condition, through art, we come to a solid ground in which we can communicate and connect in a way that does not need words. That is the true meaning of what we stand for, and that is the message that Dani and I will always strive to achieve.