El Camino High School graduate Kevin Longboy, 18, recently packed up his school supplies and clothes in his Westborough district in preparation for his big move to start college at the University of San Francisco.
He's a freshman in the department of art and architecture, but even though he's moved out of town, he hasn't left South City behind. Longboy will be building on the firm arts education he got at El Camino, and in turn he will be supported by his hometown. As the winner of the annual Jack Drago Youth Art Scholarship, the city of South San Francisco has given him $500 to support his development as a student and as an artist.
Longboy fell in love with art by accident. El Camino requires students to enroll in an arts course, and Longboy was less than thrilled to find out he'd be taking ceramics as a freshman.
"I always wanted to be in math and business classes," he said.
Already thinking ahead, Longboy figured colleges would be more impressed seeing something like psychology as an elective. But the example of his big sister, Kathrene, helped him work up enthusiasm for art.
"She was always drawing and, naturally, as a younger brother, I always wanted to do what she did," Longboy said. "So eventually I took ceramics because I wanted to impress my sister. I wanted to have something in common with my sister because we're so opposite from each other."
Longboy thrived in ceramics, making it through three of the five available classes by graduation. At this stage students had already mastered the wheel and basic ceramic techniques, leaving assignment interpretations completely in the hands of the artists.
About a month before graduating, his teacher, Carrissa Bowman, told the class about the art scholarship, which all El Camino and South San Francisco High School senior art students are eligible for. With encouragement from his friends, Longboy went for it.
While on a field trip in San Francisco with his marine sciences class, Longboy responded to the congratulatory call from South San Francisco Cultural Arts Commission member Susan Kennedy with screams of excitement. The city council honored him with a certificate at their televised meeting on June 9, where he had the chance to thank them.
"I would never have guessed that ceramics would bring me an award, but I'm really thankful and I hope I get further, and one day I guess I'll be famous," he said.
The South San Francisco Cultural Arts Commission, administrators of the Youth Art Scholarship, also honored Longboy at their meeting.
The Jack Drago Youth Art Scholarship is given annually to a promising young graduate from the South San Francisco Unified School District. Named for former fire chief and mayor of South San Francisco and awarded to one promising graduating senior of the district, its goal is to provide the recipient with a continuing education in visual arts.
As the 2010 winner, Longboy's artwork was displayed for four weeks in the atrium exhibit window in the South San Francisco Municipal Service Building.
Despite all the accolades, Longboy says he still has a lot to learn.
"The thing I became most conscious of when I was in ceramics was how little I knew about art," he said. "If I had to define what art was, I wouldn't know how to explain it. I want to be able to think and judge art, know what it's really about."
In pursuit of that goal, Longboy plans to stuff his schedule with creative courses at USF. In the years to come, he'll be taking ceramics, drama, dance, photography, art history and choir, while he works toward a major in architecture and community design.
He keeps in mind the quote from Henry David Thoreau that he read in his senior English class: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams." At the end of his senior year, Longboy painted that phrase on a vase he made to express his uncertainty about the future.
"I didn't know what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to pursue," he said, of his state of mind when he created the red, black and white vase covered with scattered letters.
With Thoreau's inspirational quotation and endless encouragement from his mother, Longboy decided to follow his dreams fearlessly. But he hasn't forgotten where he came from: he's currently applying to become a member of the South San Francisco Cultural Arts Commission.
To read Kevin Longboy's blog, go to www.kevinelle.tumblr.com