Surrounded by creativity and different art mediums turned Thu’s childhood into an adventure of self-discovery. She wasn’t scared to try new things, make mistakes, start projects over, and seek help when needed. So much of his independence and self-motivated nature came from expressing himself through artistic mediums. Now, those very same activities and principles that shaped Thu Doan will help today’s children find their place in this world.

During the chaos of the Covid-19 Pandemic, children who were in the most formative years of their lives, ages 3-10, missed out on social activities in school, learning new things in the classroom, and testing out new skills and settings. They lost multiple years of their childhoods and are now eager to make up for lost time. For Thu Doan, working at the YMCA in San Diego, California is her chance to help children recognize their potential, learn about themselves, and grow into loving, successful adults.

There, her works with the kids on robotic building projects, art, and even provides athletic opportunities for all ages. Knowing the journey of self-discovery well, Thu Doan is dedicated to cultivating an environment that provides new opportunities to try new activities on a regular basis. Constantly balancing his own higher education endeavors with her commitment to the children she works with, Thu Doan used to teach while attending the Academy of Art University in San Francisco on her Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in illustration was Thu Doan’s focus after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. As a “Thu of all trades,” she has always loved working with different mediums, in new settings, and with different types of creativity altogether. Much of her early career centered around landscape design; she was a landscape designer intern at Zeterre Landscape Architecture in the bay area. She did 2D AutoCAD drafting, 3D modeling, and more.

The year after completing her bachelor’s degree, Thu Doan worked as a landscape designer at SMITH+SMITH Landscape. Using many of the same tools she learned in his internship, he helped the firm with 2D AutoCAD drafting, 2D rendering, and 3D modeling. These hands-on experiences taught him how to understand a project from start to finish, instilled creative confidence in him, and gave him the opportunity to showcase his own vision.

Different from landscape architecture but still a creative outlet, she spent 5 years as a social media marketing manager for Ozaoza Restaurant in San Francisco. Producing marketing videos, updating photos on social media platforms, and designing the restaurant’s logo, business cards, and other flyers were Thu Doan’s focus areas. She realized she loved design and began to work with freelance clients on logos, business cards, posters, and illustrations.

Empowered by the experience of creating a vision and bringing it to reality, Thu was determined to help others have that “aha” moment. Time and time again, working with the children at the YMCA has led to that moment. She notices when her  students’ eyes light up, tries to help them dive deeper into their passions, and is constantly building a space where exploration is valued. Working closely with children who are autistic, struggle with ADHD, or are otherwise disabled, Thu Doan helps these students feel more comfortable in learning environments, connect with their peers, and participate in sports.

As a society, we have wrongly decided that someone is either artistic and creative or they aren’t, but that perspective fails to understand art and creativity at their core. Creativity isn’t about churning out paintings or publishing books, it’s about learning about yourself and the world around you through different mechanisms. Thu has committed much of her professional bandwidth to changing how kids think about their own creativity, how they connect with one another, and even how they embark on the journey of self-discovery. Art is for everyone; Thu Doan is on a mission to remind the world.

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(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jun 09, 2023 04:44 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website