Thursday, December 15, 2016

Michael’s Story

Every day I come to work, I love my job a little more. I could try and explain the magic of VSA Texas to everyone I know, but experiencing it firsthand is the only way to truly grasp what we do here. No other time do I feel more connected to our cause than when I spend time with our artists and their loved ones.

Last weekend, we had our second Meet the Artist Reception for our Annual Holiday Art Show and I had the chance to sit down with Michael Noriega. Michael is a musician with a CD for sale in our show and he provided the musical entertainment for our reception, but he is also an actor, filmmaker and has his own YouTube channel. He heard about VSA Texas last year through friends and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.
VSA Texas artist Michael Noriega practices a few chords on his guitar before he performs at our Meet the Artist Reception
“Everybody here is really nice and cool with everybody. I’m meeting a lot of people with disabilities. It’s great to feel part of something. My whole life I felt left out.”

Michael hopes to work for VSA Texas in some capacity as he grows up. He sees his experience with us as life changing and says that it has helped him discover more things he is interested in. One of his favorite experiences with our organization was being chosen as a participant in our Side by Side Film Internship where he worked on a documentary that was filmed in the AGE Building, where VSA Texas’ offices are. The building was built in 1908 and was originally the Confederate Women’s Home and is considered to be one of the most haunted places in Austin.

“My first project with VSA Texas was A Ghostly Encounter on Cedar Street, about the AGE Building being haunted. It was a lot of fun reporting and writing and editing the documentary. And we got paid for it! Which was really cool.”

Title shot from A Ghostly Encounter on Cedar Street, the mini documentary Michael worked on for our Side by Side Film Internship in 2015
I also got the opportunity to sit down with Michael’s mother, Lisa. One of the perks of working here is the built-in network of other parents of children on the Autism spectrum I get.  As I spoke with Lisa, I saw so many similarities between our kids and it was like viewing my future. I got to talk to someone who actually really understands my life.

“VSA Texas has given my son Michael a way to express himself. He is actually proud of his disability in a way. He now sees how it can benefit him.”
Lisa Noriega sits out on the AGE Building veranda and discusses her experience raising her son and his journey with VSA Texas
I asked Michael what the best thing was about our organization and his response brought tears to my eyes:

“I’m just so glad it exists. I wish I had created it. It almost feels too good to be true. Everybody here gets a chance to do something and build each other up.”

So, next time you ask me why I love my job so much, think of Michael and his mother and the joy and understanding our programs have brought to their lives. I want to ensure VSA Texas is around to help my son when he is old enough to join our programs.

You can follow Michael Noriega on YouTube or stop by our Holiday Art Show at 3707 Home Lane and pick up his CD Vivid Dream.

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