Imani Ayo-Oyar graduated from DVFS in 2012. She attended Delaware College of Art and Design for two years, and then transferred to Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia, graduating in 2017 with a concentration in illustration. Imani was an Artist in Residence at Delaware Valley Friends School during the fall of 2017, where she worked with DV art students and shared her artistic process. During that time, Imani was taking classes at the Community College of Philadelphia to complete her minor in Psychology. She began a graduate program in the fall of 2018 at Drexel University in their Art Therapy and Counseling program with the goal of opening her own art therapy practice. Imani is also starting her own illustration business.
When did you come to DVFS, and from where?
I came to DV in 7th grade from a public school in Philadelphia.
Can you tell us a little bit about your learning difference and struggles in school?
I have dyslexia, and for me that means that I have difficulty interpreting communication, both written and verbal, and difficulty with executive functioning, mostly related to organization. In the first school I attended, I was placed in a special ed class designed for students with severe disabilities. I was only learning very basic things like colors, numbers and letters and my mother was very upset because while she knew that I had difficulties keeping up with the normal academic flow in a mainstream classroom, she also knew that I was capable of so much more. Eventually I was placed in a regular classroom -- but there the pace was too quick. It became clear to both of us that I needed a better environment. We started looking, and found DVFS.
What changed for you when you came to DV?
The first difference I noticed when I came to DV was in the way people interacted with me and with each other -- it was much friendlier, and people were more respectful toward me and each other. This was a new experience for me because I was so used to being on the defensive all the time in public school. Academically, what we were learning at DV was way more advanced than what I had been learning in public school, and the way the teachers taught started to make information more understandable to me. I began to like learning. At DV, I was also introduced to Dragon Dictate - a speech to text software that the teachers recommended and had installed on my DV laptop. It changed my life! I use dictation software on my phone and computer for writing and to stay organized and it really helps me keep up in school.
Do you have any special memories from your time at DVFS?
I loved history and enjoyed Gray Goodman’s classes -- and, of course, art classes with Jodi Rice. I’ve always loved art and had very creative family members, like my late grandmother who painted with watercolors and created a family collage. So, art is in my blood. I grew up surrounded by Philadelphia’s rich creative heritage and always going to museums -- so by middle school, I knew I wanted to be an artist. Seeing Jodi and Norma have art-based careers at DV showed me that art could be a viable career, not just a hobby, and that helped direct me toward art school and an art-based career of my own.
How did you discover the path you are currently pursuing?
In addition to my passion for art, I also have a deep interest in the medical field and desire to help others. At DCAD, they had monthly artist panels where people would come in and talk about their career trajectories. I found out about careers in Art Therapy -- and also about a career as a medical illustrator for medicine and biology publications. Both appealed to me. I had also developed a psychological disorder in addition to my dyslexia that made it challenging to develop accurate perceptions of people and social situations. I found that I could use my art as a way of communicating, and wanted to help others to use art as a communication device. So, I decided to pursue a graduate degree in Art Therapy and Counseling with the goal of opening my own art therapy practice, and I am also starting my own illustration business. So, you might say, I decided to pursue both of my areas of interest - art and medicine.
What do you think the long-term value of a DVFS education has been for you?
The methods DV teachers use to teach children here are very valuable, and the skills and strategies they taught me helped me to keep up with my college courses. Sometimes, my college classmates who did not have learning differences struggled because they didn’t have the tools that I did. The Quaker values that underpin the DV culture have also been helpful to me -- simplicity, being kind to people, and treating people with respect are values that I’ve taken with me and try to model in my life. I played basketball on the DV team, and in that experience I learned about teamwork and increased my work ethic. Understanding teamwork is helpful in my career working with other therapists and clients.