Student and artist overcoming obstacles with courage

Sebastian Kitchen

Sebastian Kitchen (FL ’14), metro government reporter, The Courier-Journal

by Sebastian Kitchen, Focus Louisville, November 2014 –

His shirt and iPod caked in paint, Chimel Ford worked away on his latest painting. Chimel enjoys drawing and painting logos and brands – his take on pop art – a Hershey’s bar or a Maker’s Mark bottle.

The talented man is not a traditional artist in a traditional studio. Chimel, who has a warm smile, is a highly functioning autistic. He and his friends work at a studio tucked away off of Bardstown Road operated by Zoom Group, which assists adults with developmental issues. Zoom Group has several activities for those adults, but StudioWorks allows them a creative outlet and an avenue for them to earn some money. The artists receive 80 percent of the money from the art they sell, which is displayed there much like it would be in another gallery.

Chimel has a drastically different story than another young star I was blessed to meet during a more than two-day Focus Louisville class I attended the week before Thanksgiving with about 50 other people interested in this community and its future.

The other star who stands out to me from my class is Diamond, a star student at Waggener High School. She lives near downtown and attends Waggener High School for its medical training program. She is an ambassador for the school. Previously, Jefferson County Public Schools had a bus route that brought her to Waggener in St. Matthews, but that route is no longer available to Diamond.

But the sharp young woman loves her school. So, every school day, she is there to catch her first TARC bus at 6 a.m. And she has to transfer to another bus to get to Waggener. Diamond showed some of us in Focus Louisville around Waggener. She glows. When she speaks about attending college, the only question is whether she wants to attend college in Kentucky or continue her education out of state.

Most high school students with a choice wouldn’t even consider catching a bus at 6 a.m. because they love their school, their school family or the programs there so much. Diamond is different, much like the other stellar students we met at Waggener.

While we heard from business leaders, resolute leaders of non-profits and top elected and appointed officials, the compelling stories of Chimel and Diamond are the ones that linger in my mind – the personal stories that make the work of community leaders and organizations real and relevant.

Chimel and Diamond are ideal examples of Louisville’s promise and its challenges and why the work of those active in the community, those with an interest in its future, and those in positions of power and influence is so essential.

Diamond and Chimel have two completely different stories. Two completely different people with completely different talents. But both are working hard to overcome obstacles –taking them on with courage. And a little help.

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