Master's Student Jason Valdez Finds Community in Art Making
September 22, 2022
Since childhood, Jason Valdez has nurtured a passion for art making. Born in Dallas, Texas, Valdez came to Drexel University to pursue an undergraduate degree in art history. While studying, Valdez discovered dual interests in art and behavioral health counseling. Now enrolled in the College of Nursing and Health Professions master’s in Art Therapy and Counseling program, Valdez is building the future career of his dreams.
“I’ve always known that art is a big form of therapy for me,” says Valdez. “Before I came to Drexel, I didn’t know what art therapy was, as a profession, but I knew I wanted to create and engage with art in a way that helped people.”
While an undergrad, Valdez enrolled in WRIT 215: Story Medicine, a community-based learning class at Drexel taught in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The goal of the course is to teach creative writing to special populations, such as long-term care pediatric patients and children with disabilities. Valdez says that after the first day of the course, he discovered his purpose.
“From day one, I knew I loved this work. I worked with children in hospice care and taught them about how colors can correlate to mood. In some ways, it was basic art education, yet it had a much deeper resonance,” Valdez shares. “By the end of the course, I remember thinking: ‘I don’t know what any of this means yet, but this is what I want to do.”
After researching art therapy as a field, Valdez feels that he has found his professional sweet-spot. Part art making, part counseling and community-centered care, Valdez is thrilled for his future in the field and the opportunity to continue his studies at Drexel.
“Not everyone knows what art therapy is, and I have found a variety of definitions. These next three years in my master’s program will absolutely shape my perspective and I am excited to build something unique that will serve so many people in the future.”
In addition to his passion for art, Valdez is an advocate for the Latinx community at Drexel.
“When I first came to Drexel for my bachelor’s degree, I was very hesitant to express my Mexican-American culture. I had never been to Philadelphia before; I only knew Texas. I faced some difficult experiences at first,” Valdez admits. “I felt very alone during my first year. But I learned that trying to hide my culture wasn’t serving me. I needed to find people who could help me express who I am and share in my experiences, rather than diminish them.”
During his junior year, Valdez joined Latino America Unida, Lambda Alpha Upsilon Fraternity, Inc. (LAU), a Latinx based but not exclusive fraternity on Drexel’s campus. While there, Valdez found authentic connection and the community support he needed.
“When there are people on your side, it makes all the difference in the world,” Valdez comments, “We go above and beyond to support each other in this group. LAU has taught me that there is no way to be truly successful without embracing every aspect of yourself. It’s not just about academic success, but personal success as well.”
Reflecting on his journey at Drexel so far, Valdez says he is ready to lead.
“I want to carve a path for students like me,” he concludes. “I’ve been through it, and I want to be there for others. I used to think that sharing my culture would expose me and leave me vulnerable but now I know that it is the only way to authentically represent myself. By staying at Drexel, I hope that I can be a resource for others coming up. If I can ease this journey for even one person, I will feel that I have done a great job.”
Written by Izzy López