Special education student hopes to continue with artistic touch

John Kelting will move up from his classes at the Metropolitan Learning Center to a new program at Portland State


Correspondent, The Oregonian


John Kelting stands at his drawing board at Metropolitan Learning Center, sketching dark gray lines to form Arnold Schwarzenegger's iron jaw.

Kelting, a sandy-haired 18-year-old with a winsome smile and cheerful manner, wants to be an artist after he graduates.

"Drawing is my favorite thing to do," said Kelting, sitting in the art room at the learning center, his drawings scattered around him like silent friends. "When I was 7 or 8 I liked to draw with my sister and dad. When I was a little kid and grandma didn't understand me, I would draw her a picture of what I did."

Kelting draws in pencil, pastels and colored pencils; the pictures are of nature and movie stars, cartoons and animals. He holds up a drawing of a black and white panda that he exhibited along with 30 of his pieces in a solo art show at the school this spring.

One of his favorite subjects is Schwarzenegger.

"He is a good actor — he's himself. He's really cool," said Kelting, who's seen almost all of the burly actor's films.

Kelting is one of about 120 special education students in Portland Public Schools who are eligible to graduate this June, and one of two from the Metropolitan Learning Center's 481 member student body.

Kelting, who likes to perform magic tricks, wrote a poem called "The Magic Door" for his graduation announcement that he'll read at the ceremony June 10.

"Oh, here is a door, It's a magic door.
 Everything you want is outside.
Go, run for itl You're floating in air,
It's like you're flying —
Then the door's gone.
Don't look back. Keep going."

This fall he'll attend a new program for special education students run by Portland Public Schools and housed at Portland State University called the Community Transition Center. There he'll take art and writing classes, as well as life skills courses, including money management, shopping and job skills.

"I took T-shirt art' at MLC," John explained, adding that he hopes to continue his art classes at PSU and his private lessons.

Kelting hopes to find work in silk screening through a one-on-one mentorship or work experience program after he finishes at PSU.

Kelting has spent the last three years at the learning center, after transferring from Wilson because the classes were smaller and more inclusive of special needs students at the alternative school. He took the same classes as everyone else, except that his educational assistant, Victor Cummings, modified the curriculum to fit Kelting's individual needs.

He likes the Metropolitan Learning Center because "it's small. It's a lot of kids, a lot of new friends. I'll miss the classes I take and the teachers I'll miss."

Not surprisingly, art was one of his favorite courses, and he espe­cially enjoyed his last two teachers, Betty Mayther in his junior year and this year Joyce Lozito, whom he liked "because of her sense of humor."

The feeling is mutual.

"He's...content and likes to see the humor in things," said Lozito, who is his teacher for art and improvisational theater. "He is persistent and has an extremely imaginative mind in which he creates abstract and figurative characters. Most of his stuff is pretty colorful and has a feeling of propulsion to it."

Another favorite is Ralph Lorance, who teaches nature studies.

"We learn about forests and trees and plants," Kelting said. "I draw different kinds of trees, snakes and ivy."

Kelting said he also enjoys science and math classes and economics.

"I play marimba in a marimba band," said Kelting, striking one of the horizontal bars of a wooden marimba that he and fellow students constructed during and after school. "We perform for the school."

For the past two years, he's acted in four musicals put on by a private group called Phame - Physically Handicapped Artists and Musical Entertainers.

"I like to get up on stage," Kelting said. "I think about different ideas. I feel good and excited and proud."

His mother, Carol Kelting, is an educational assistant at Fernwood Middle School.

His sister, Jennifer Kelting, 22, graduates this June from the Chicago Art Institute. His father, John Kelting, works in construction. The family lives in Southwest Portland, near Multnomah.

For the past seven years, Kelting has participated in the Special Olympics, winning several gold medals in swimming, as well as trophies in golfing and track and field.

During his years at the learning center he worked as a library assistant and a cafeteria assistant. This summer he'll volunteer for the second year in a row in the Washington Park Zoo's teen volunteer program,

Published June 9, 1994. ©Copyright The Oregonian