“I want all students to come here and see it to know if you are an ACC student, you have the opportunity here and leave your mark behind.” – Danielle Moak, ACC 3D Animation student, muralist
A mural at the Austin Community College District (ACC) Northridge Campus hopes to bring communities together.
“I wanted to show everyone what they can get at ACC. Illustrate every area of the school and let them know there is a safe and welcoming community for you here. I had a really rough life. Having something like this mural out there, I hope, helps students know you can still succeed.”
Danielle Moak is a 3D animation student at ACC. She’s also autistic.
“Most people with autism are viewed as unable to do anything, including work and live alone. I was told several times that I couldn’t do anything because of my disabilities. Whether you are autistic or someone tells you you can’t do things, like go to school — I want you to know — you can.”
As an ACC Grow student employee, Danielle was commissioned to design and create a mural for the Student Affairs Office at Northridge. After working through several concepts, Danielle got to work — painting her design along the walls of the Welcome Center in Building 1000.
For Danielle, getting to this moment was not an easy path. She first enrolled at ACC in 2019.
“When I came to ACC, I didn’t know how to read. My first teacher here was Frank Cronin (Integrated Reading & Writing professor), and he taught me. We spent a whole summer together. He didn’t have to do this, but he did. I am still working on my reading skills, but now, I can read a book and my assignments. I wouldn’t be here without him.”
Danielle is now just eight classes from completing her associate degree in 3D Animation before moving on to a Game Design Degree.
“I really like how you can make stories, and people can experience the stories. There’s like so many different ways to tell unique stories and things like 3D animation.”
Danielle wants to ensure other students in the neurodiverse community know there is a safe space for you at ACC. She is part of Neurobats of ACCess Autism, an ACC organization led by and for ACC neurodivergent students. The group works to break down stigmas and build a safe and welcoming environment for all students.
“When our students experience barriers that are related to their disabilities, it can be hard for them to explain what the barriers are and what they need to help them overcome the barrier. Tapping into the strengths of our neurodivergent students to understand what they are comprehending then teaching them how to use their strengths to express, communicate, and advocate,” says Samantha Thomson ACC Transformation Coach and GROW Supervisor. “With Danielle, she has learned that her strengths in art and storytelling can help her teach her peers important social cognition skills. Danielle uses her creativity to help build social cognition skills among her peers by creating social stories that offer perspectives that can occur in our social environments.”
“Our main target is students with autism because they can get sensory overloaded quickly. We have a sensory room at the Northridge Campus where you can come, take a deep breath, and chill. Just take a minute for yourself.”
The goal is to expand these sensory rooms across the district.
“We just want somewhere you could just sit, play with a fidget tool, and relax. It helps with mental health and makes you better focus.”
Danielle also is looking at painting murals across the district, starting at Cypress Creek and including another one at the Northridge Campus.
For more information on Neurobats, visit austincc.edu/accessautism.