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Student Success Pioneering Student Inspires Faculty

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alerie Alcaraz does not think of herself as a trailblazer. But as the first blind art major at Fullerton College, she is paving a path lined with determination, ambition and creativity. Alcaraz’ goal to earn an AA degree in art with an emphasis in ceramics has stirred an excitement and a doubled-down commitment from faculty, who have challenged themselves to adapt their classes to rely less on sight. “They expect you to pull your weight,” she said. “But they also do more than their share to help you.” Sighted students can thumb through a textbook to learn about classic paintings and architecture. With 3D printing capabilities, courtesy of the Disability Support Services (DSS), Alcaraz is able to learn-by-feeling architectural designs and other works from her two-dimensional design class to achieve the same level of educational rigor as her sighted classmates. “It’s cool to get an idea of what something looks like,” she said referring to the 3D models and ceramics.

Faculty member Darren Hostetter collaborated with DSS staff a semester in advance to assure that Alcaraz had 3D models of architectural designs and expanded descriptions of artwork from the textbooks. DSS staff combed through her assigned textbooks to provide lengthy descriptions of the imagery found in the book. These descriptions are extensive. For example, the description for the Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” is 24-pages long, said Paul McKinley, director of Disability Support Services. “Valerie has literally changed the Art Department’s perspective,” McKinley said. “Her attitude and her ambition inspire the faculty to be proactive and not reactive to her needs.” A case in point is ceramics professor William Henke. When he learned that Alcaraz would be studying with him, he came in on Saturdays to practice throwing clay - blindfolded. He understood that to teach Alcaraz, he needed to experience making pottery from her perspective. “Valerie is up to the challenge and so are we,” Henke said. “If you have a student as motivated as she is, you are motivated.” After she graduates from Fullerton College, Alcaraz plans to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in ceramics at Cal State Fullerton or Cal State Long Beach and perhaps pursue a career in art therapy. She is drawn to the art form and has already commissioned a few pieces for a furniture store. Her pieces have also been shown in galleries. She finds solace in her work, saying, “Time goes by fast and three hours feels like one. I’m not shut out from the world in a bad way; I just love being lost in my art.”

(Left) Valerie Alcaraz is earning her associates degree in art.

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Profile for FullColl

2013-2014 Fullerton College Annual Report  

The 2013-2014 Fullerton College Annual Report showcases many of the unique programs and services offered at the college.

2013-2014 Fullerton College Annual Report  

The 2013-2014 Fullerton College Annual Report showcases many of the unique programs and services offered at the college.

Profile for fullcoll
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