Last fall, Ava Fanzega signed up for Headstart in Art at Gleneagle secondary school.
A Grade 12 student at the Coquitlam Alternative Basic Education (CABE) school, Fanzega wasn’t sure what she would be doing after graduation before she joined the extracurricular program run by the Emily Carr University of Art + Design (ECUAD).
But her four months learning from post-secondary instructors proved to be fruitful.
Not only did Fanzega gain new skills in visual arts but she also receive three credits toward her first year at ECUAD.
Spurred by her success, Fanzega applied to the Vancouver university in February with the aim of pursuing a fine arts bachelor’s degree.
A month later, the 18-year-old student got an acceptance letter and, by May, she was touring the campus and talking to faculty and undergrads about their experiences.
Her admittance makes Fanzega the first CABE grad to win a spot at ECUAD, a distinction that “I’m very excited about,” she told The Tri-City News last week.
Her acceptance to Emily Carr also comes with a reward as Coast Capital Savings has bestowed her a Standing Tall scholarship, worth $3,500 for her tuition.
It’s a nice send-off after a few rough years, she said.
Fanzega missed most of her Grade 8 education because of “crippling anxiety” and PTSD as a result of a car accident and troubles at home. By Grade 10, she was at CABE — a school her mother also attended as a student while her infant daughter was in its daycare.
There, Fanzega's drawing and painting teacher, Rhea Rose, and fellow teachers Dianne Taft and Kyle Smelser reignited Fanzega’s childhood passion, guiding her in textiles, ceramics, painting and drawing classes.
But it was the Headstart program that she credits for opening her eyes to “create things I never knew I could” and to pursue the arts as a career.
Now, she’s considering a future in art therapy with children.
Next Thursday, as she walks across stage at the Massey Theatre in New Westminster for her convocation with about 60 other CABE grads, Fanzega said she’ll be giving thanks to all the people who steered her in the right direction: her family, her friends, her co-workers and her educators.
And to other art students who are making their way up the high school ladder, Fanzega has these words of advice: “Push yourself past the point that you think you’re capable. Even if you don’t like the way something turned out, keep going because it can become something else even more beautiful than you imagined. And do what makes you happy.”