The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund recently featured this Children’s Aid story, written by Jennifer Lee, about Nazaury Delgado’s struggle to change from likely high school drop-out to college student. Below is an excerpt from the original article:
In March Nazaury Delgado shyly showed his iPod Touch to an art teacher, flicking his finger across the images he had created with Photoshop on his home computer.
The teacher, Cornelius Van Wright, asked if he could print them out. After he had looked at them again, Mr. Van Wright hurriedly summoned the rest of the teachers at the Fred Dolan Art Academy, a Saturday arts program that works with at-risk teenagers in the Bronx.
“We couldn’t believe it,” said Neil Waldman, an illustrator who founded the arts program, and who was stunned by the carefully manipulated overlays of faces and colorful textures. “I almost fell on my face. The work was so remarkable.”
For years, Mr. Delgado, then a high school senior, had been considered a solid, if unremarkable, artist in the program — though one who had benefited from its discipline. At 11, he had found his father dying of a drug overdose in the bedroom. He fell in with the wrong circle of friends, had run-ins with the police and straddled the line of failing classes. He suffers from a learning disability that makes reading difficult.
But in his junior year, he had asked Mr. Waldman, “Is it too late for me?”
It wasn’t. If he focused on his art and schoolwork, he was told, he could graduate from high school and perhaps go to a community college.
“I decided to become a different person, change my attitude,” said Mr. Delgado, now 19.
But as the teachers looked at the images, they realized that Mr. Delgado should be applying to the top art schools in the nation. With just one week before the last round of applications were due at many schools, he and his teachers scrambled to get the full slate of requirements done: a self-portrait, a three-dimensional model, a logo and an artistic interpretation of the quotation “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
And they also included a portfolio of his computer-manipulated pieces. While the art academy assignments had left him uninspired, the flexibility of Photoshop empowered Mr. Delgado. Often working through the night, he transformed humdrum photos taken with a budget camera into gripping, rippling portraits using transparencies, overlays and gradients.
“There are some people who have an innate ability to create spectacle, something innate that you can’t teach,” Mr. Waldman said.
The news came in June: Mr. Delgado had been accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology on a full scholarship.
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New York, NY 10036
Photo courtesy of Michelle V. Agins for The New York Times