In the art department at North Garland High School, many students have creative talent...but one girl has a gift.
“She is absolutely one of the most prolific artists I’ve had come through North Garland in the 17 years I’ve been here," said art teacher Kathy King.
Kelly Whitaker, 17, has autism. Typically, people on the autism spectrum struggle with social skills.
But through her art, Kelly is painting a different picture. It's something her teacher first noticed earlier this year.
Mrs. King had just given Kelly an assignment: draw a picture of every single person in the class. Kelly did, but not even Mrs. King could've imagined what she'd do next.
“Had no idea," King said with a laugh. "None whatsoever.”
Once Kelly finished drawing her classmates, she moved on to the teachers, then to the cafeteria workers and finally the office staff.
In all, Kelly has drawn every employee in the school which is a total of 168 portraits.
The school held an art show to celebrate her work.
“When everyone admires my artwork it makes me proud,” said Kelly.
Kelly's art teachers all say she's got the talent to make art a career. But perhaps her greatest gift lies in her ability to capture the sincerity behind every smile.
“She has the ability to pick up on feelings and emotions that most people can miss," her autism inclusion teacher Michelle Sargent said.
"I think she sees people for who they are," said history teacher and football coach Trent Dagen.
As for Kelly's teachers, they now see her for who she truly is: a great artist. Not a great artist with autism, just a great artist.
“I think we should look at all people that way," Sargent said. "Look at them for everything they are, what they’re made of. I mean, aren’t we all looking for a way to fit?”
It's so easy to focus on what makes us different, but Kelly has shown the pieces look better together.