St. Edward’s freshman accepts award from First Lady, represents Mexic-Arte Museum

Amanda Gonzalez

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If you had the opportunity to meet the First Lady of the United States, what would you say?

Freshman Kassey Rocha traveled to Washington Nov. 14-15 to accept a 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from Michelle Obama. Rocha was a student representative of the Mexic-Arte Museum youth program “Screen It!”

“It was like a dream,” Rocha said. “I didn’t actually believe it until I was at the White House.”

Rocha recalled everyone had tears in their eyes when Obama walked into the crowded room. She had a few moments to talk with the first lady prior to receiving the award. The first lady asked Rocha for her age and encouraged her to continue excelling in school.

“I got to tell her that she inspired me to be a strong woman,” Rocha said. “And she was like ‘no, thank you.’ It was just a really great moment I got to have with her.”

While visiting the nation’s capital, Rocha and museum education coordinator Olivia Tamzarian had the opportunity to sightsee several monuments and memorials, as well as the streets of Alexandria, Virginia.

Mexic-Arte’s “Screen It!” educational program teaches Austin youth the art of screenprinting. This was one of 12 programs recognized by Obama and received $10,000 in grant money to advance its cultural awareness goals.

Originally from Laredo, Texas, Rocha has always appreciated the Latino arts of the southern border. As a young child, Rocha enjoyed drawing and participated in school art clubs.

Rocha has been involved with the program since her junior year of high school and has fulfilled several internships with the Mexic-Arte Museum.

“Throughout the three years I’ve been there, I’ve learned how art can be a career,” Rocha said.

Rocha said screenprinting is a Mexican artform that allows young entrepreneurs to print graphic designs onto T-shirts, mugs and tote bags.

Besides taking art history classes, she encouraged other young artists to experiment with multiple art forms like sculpting, painting, 3-D art, film and screen printing.

Rocha is finishing her first semester at St. Edward’s. The Global Studies major is fluent in English and Spanish, and is studying French.

“She’s very attentive and appears to be genuinely interested in language and culture,” Associate Professor of French Philippe Seminet said. “I was really excited for her when she told me she was going to D.C. I told her to tell Michelle to run in 2020.”

Future ambitions for Rocha include studying abroad in Japan. Although Rocha is only a freshman, Seminet believes she will use her undergraduate years as a springboard for travel and discovery.

To students who are interested in arts and humanities, but nudged to pursue a career in sciences, Rocha says, “Doing something you love that keeps you happy.”