Kayla Burroughs, a junior at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts, has been named Student of the Year by the Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities.
Burroughs, who also participates in ballet, tap, jazz and hip-hop classes, is being recognized for her artwork.
Jessica Powell, Burroughs’ figure drawing instructor at Patapsco, was teary-eyed as she explained her journey with her student and how she had “no idea” Burroughs had a visual problem because it never showed in her work.
Despite suffering from cone dystrophy, an ocular disorder characterized by the loss of cone cells which leads to blurred vision, color blindness and decreased visual clarity when looking straight ahead, Burroughs meets challenges head-on and does not let her visual impairment determine her success.
“My mom is a big influence, because when I was younger, I always struggled with seeing things and I’m very limited. The only thing I could do is draw, so my parents kept pushing me to keep doing it, and I just want to make them proud” Burroughs said.
While drawing, Burroughs can’t get close enough to see details, so she makes up the images in her mind through her imagination and then outlines it on paper. Not knowing if her pictures are coming out correctly, she’ll ask her teachers for direction; in most cases they’ll tell her she is “doing fine.”
“I don’t know how she gets it to her paper and how she manages not only to do the work but has gotten progressively better.” Powell explained.
Feeling hesitant to use power tools, for fear of hurting herself, when making sculptures Burroughs uses paper and cardboard instead.
“I get excuses all day long and its frustrating sometimes because we have Kayla who has a huge challenge and it doesn’t let her stop reaching goals” Powell said.
Burroughs’ instructors and coordinators describe her as “inspiring,” and say they are very honored to be able to have her as a student.
“It should be an award for just being a good artist,” Visual Arts Department chair Jesse Dortzbach said when asked about Burroughs receiving the award.
Magnet coordinator Trisha A. Dunn explained that Burroughs donates her artwork to local schools for fundraisers.
After high school, Burroughs said that she plans to continue to draw and create art work to sell.
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