Nothing ever came easy to Lincoln Easley.
And while he struggled with math and English all his life, he is finally graduating from Sierra College with an associate’s degree in art, which he is using as a way to give back to the community.
Easley volunteered to teach art after school at Ready Springs Elementary School and was able to help provide one student, 10-year-old Samantha Robinson, with art supplies and a scholarship.
“It was like a personal project I took on,” Easley said. “I went to the art club at Sierra College to see if they would be willing to help me with this and do fundraisers. It’s funny where life can take you and what you can accomplish.”
Easley was also able to provide summertime training with Sierra College professor Phil Brown using donations from personal funds, the Sierra College art club and the local division of Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“It’s amazing how the community around us managed to put something out, even with tough times,” Easley said.
During a school ceremony Thursday, Easley set up a table with the art materials and called Samantha to the front of the audience, much to her surprise.
“I was really, really amazed that I got this opportunity,” she said.
“I love learning about it and trying out new things.”
Samantha walked to the front of the audience with a shocked look on her face and a shy, modest smile.
“She’s not the type of student who gets video games and a lot of things,” Easley said.
Robinson’s mother and grandmother said she is always drawing and creating something and volunteers to help with any project that comes her way.
Samantha said she likes to sketch and paint horses in particular, which her grandmother, also an artist, introduced her to.
“She’s always loved art,” said Melissa Robinson, Samantha’s mom.
“She gets it from her grandma.”
The after-school art program Easley coordinates means a lot to students, said third-grade teacher Tammy Jennings.
“He’s really amazing, really calm,” Jennings said.
“And she’s just an incredible, warm-hearted little girl. She really deserves it.”
The experience has been very rewarding, Easley said.
“It’s amazing how these kids can change your life,” he said. “It’s really amazing how you can come up with one idea and that so many people would follow you.”
Easley said he hopes he is able to put Samantha on a successful life path in which she can utilize her artistic talent.
“She is one of those kids who is gifted, and I’m trying to give her a head start to make her entire living on this,” Easley said. “I’m hoping this points her in a direction.”
He also hopes that volunteering his time and involving the community can act as an example to others.
“Kids are losing their art programs … If we are able to come up with something like this, we could find a lot of gifted children,” Easley said.
“It’s like one of those personal dreams of being able to change the world around me.”
Easley also wants to assure people that they can accomplish anything, even in light of challenges, as he was barely able to enter college in 2001 and is now graduating.
“When I entered college, I was at such a low level that it was almost not possible to go to college because my reading and writing and math were too low,” he said.
When he eventually broke away from the special education program, he achieved success with a large amount of focus, effort and struggle.
“If I can do what I’ve done in the last couple years, anyone can do anything,” he said.
Even with tragedies like Sandy Hook and the Boston marathon attack, Easley said, change can happen with combined community effort.
“Together we can overwhelm all those bad things with good things,” he said. “That’s what I see for our future.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.