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High school senior recognized for volunteer work with special-needs students

Several high school students from the San Antonio area were recognized by former President Barack Obama for their volunteer community service. The students also received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award. One of those students is Reagan High School senior Sabrina Epstein.

Epstein is the founder of Artful Start. She works with the special-needs community using her art talents.

"The primary goal is to introduce these activities to people with special needs, but secondary is to reduce that stigma. And I have found that I have learned so much," Epstein said.

When she was younger, Epstein attended summer camps. Then several years ago, she started working at Camp Children's Association for Maximum Potential, or Camp CAMP, a summer camp for children with special needs that turned her life in a new direction.

"I decided that I really wanted to take action and do more throughout the year to help the community," Epstein said.

Epstein started Artful Start and now holds events several times a month year-round, using art as a form of communicating with her students and getting them to express themselves.

"One really unique thing about art is that it is really a tool for unification, because when you come up with different activities that you're really able to participate in, regardless your level of ability, then it is something that everyone can participate in and get joy from," Epstein said.

While Epstein is helping those with special needs, she said she has come to realize certain things.

"I think the most important thing is how much more alike we are than different we are," Epstein said. "A lot of times, there is this stigma, and people are afraid to interact with this particular group. But when you get to know people on a one-to-one basis, we're just all people. We're not any kind of diagnosis on a piece of paper."

Epstein, who just happens to be the valedictorian of her senior class at Reagan out of 753 seniors, is hopefully headed off to college in the Northeast. She said she loves the Washington, D.C., area and is awaiting to hear from several schools.

She would eventually like to work on improving access to health care for people with disabilities.

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