WSVN — Sometimes we hide our differences out of embarrassment or shyness. But one local woman is using what makes her different as inspiration to accomplish her dreams. 7’s Lynn Martinez shows us how a unique art program helped her get to the “Front of the Class.”

From the moment she was born, Crystal Modeste was different.

Crystal Modeste, art student at Broward College: “I was born with amniotic band syndrome.”

While she was still in the womb, her umbilical chord wrapped around her hand and foot, so they never developed.

Crystal Modeste: “I have, like, a prosthetic leg. It definitely made me more self-conscious and shy about things.”

All her life, she has dealt with people treating her differently.

Crystal Modeste: “When I was a kid, this grown lady, she was just staring at my leg, and it was such an awful feeling.”

So Crystal tried to hide her disability. But in school she found something that made her truly happy: art.

Crystal Modeste: “It definitely taught me to be more creative and more independent with my art.”

Crystal wanted to make a career out of her passion for art, and a new program at Broward College was the key to her dreams. It’s called VADA, short for Visual Arts and Design Academy.

VADA allows students to earn an associate degree and learn skills to get into prestigious art schools around the country.

Professor Leo Stitsky, VADA program coordinator: “Sort of our art honors group. A select group, a cohort of young artists who are juried in, and they work together at higher standards.”

The admissions process is tough, but she fought to get in.

Professor Leo Stitsky: They made her jump through hoops. They made her bring and send more work.”

And once classes started, Crystal says, for the first time in her life, she felt like she finally fit in. People were focused on her talent, not her disabilities.

Crystal Modeste: “They don’t try to focus on it ’cause they know there’s other stuff in this world to be focusing on.”

Her disabilities even started inspiring some of her art.

Crystal Modeste: “I’m showing more of me in my art. I’m trying not to hide so much.”

She’s gone on to be a shining example to other students.

Professor Leo Stitsky: “She’s a star. Someone like Crystal, who’s had to deal with some adversity in her life, is perfect because she confronts it and just deals with it.”

Crystal says she’s not hiding anymore.

Crystal Modeste: “You’re more than your disability. You can stand out and you should be happy to stand out.”

She’s proud to be at the “Front of the Class.”

Crystal just graduated from Broward College, and she’s now heading off to the prestigious Art Center College of Design in California. She says she wants to design art for video games, movies and TV.

Only 30 students are accepted into the VADA program each year at Broward College. To learn more about it and find out how to apply, check out the link below.


Broward College VADA Program


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