For Guild School student Thomas*, drawing had always been a passion. His colorful artwork ranged from abstract designs to renditions of people and current events.  Last fall, he took his skills to new heights by taking Drawing 1, an introductory art course at Middlesex Community College in Lowell.

Thomas participated in this course through Middlesex Community College’s Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (ICEI) program, a dual enrollment opportunity for high school students with intellectual disabilities to take part in college-level courses and receive career support, education coaches, peer mentors, and full access to the college’s clubs, student activities, and academic resources.

While The Guild has supported students in auditing courses at Middlesex Community College in the past, Thomas was the first Guild student to enroll in a class for credit. Despite his initial nerves about such an undertaking, he skillfully managed each project and pulled off an impressive A- for the semester. 

As part of the course, Thomas attended a three-hour lecture each week and completed weekly art project assignments. Yarden Fanta, Employment Training Services Specialist in The Guild’s vocational services department, supported Thomas throughout the semester by assisting with homework when necessary and motivating him to stay on track with deadlines.

“Thomas was just amazing,” said Yarden. “He stayed on top of projects and never shied away from answering the challenging questions in class.”

Thomas’ semester culminated in a final project that required him to interview a local artist and give a presentation to his classmates about their inspiration and techniques. He chose to speak with Jean Winslow, an artist in downtown Lowell who creates collage-based pieces.

“Jean’s inspiration comes from her family (she had a son with special needs), and often she’ll use her children’s and grandchildren’s drawings within her collages,” said Thomas. “I like the combination of colors and the way she creates different shades.”

Thomas’s professor noted both his artistic growth and ability to provide valuable critical feedback to his peers in his final comments to Thomas. Yarden agreed that Thomas grew tremendously throughout the fall.

“Watching his final presentation showed me just how far Thomas had come during the semester. His confidence came through in his public speaking skills,” said Yarden. “He’s incredibly capable and can accomplish so much.”

*A pseudonym is being used in this article to protect student privacy

"Spider Shoe," one of Thomas's final pieces
                     "Spider Shoe," one of Thomas's final pieces