Art for Heart’s Sake

Allan Milton really wants to go to prom. So the Grandville High School senior decided to put his artistic talents toward raising the $40 cost to attend and eat a fancy dinner, and to look snazzy doing it.

His caricatures of fellow students are in such high demand, Allan quickly made enough to meet that cost, plus rent a tuxedo, for the April 22 event at Noto’s Old World Italian Dining.

The young man of few words — but who is plenty prolific with a ream of printer paper and a fresh set of Sharpies — continues to set up his easel during lunch, and to take money for his work. But now it’s being funneled to the handful of other seniors in his autism spectrum disorder class.

Couples welcomeAs of Monday, Allan had raised about $167. He’ll keep drawing in coming weeks to help his classmates, two of whom have had tuxes donated by Men’s Warehouse, teacher Dan Jakubowski said.

“We knew about his drawing talent because he’s done his classmates, and we knew he wanted to go to prom, so somebody said ‘Why don’t you draw people at lunch and set up a donation jar?'” Jakubowski said. “This way, he can own it, and it clearly makes him feel good and others feel good. Everybody wants to be drawn by Allan.”

Like other caricaturists, Allan picks out one detail, such as large eyes, and exaggerates it for maximum effectWhen contacted last week, Allan’s mom, Taletha Milton, said she hadn’t heard about her son’s lunchtime fundraising. But she is well aware of his artistic talent.

“Ever since he was 3 or 4, when he wanted to go somewhere or do something, he would draw the symbol for it,” she said. “I never knew a 3-year-old could draw the whole Burger King symbol, or kids at a park. And the way he draws, it’s like he starts off with the number three and ends up with an eagle or something. He sees it differently.”

She knew he wanted to go to prom, but like a typical teen, “He told me he didn’t want me to go with him,” she said, laughing.

“They just told me (his tux and ticket) were taken care of, so this whole time I was thinking the school or the teacher did it. I’m so proud of my baby. I’m about to cry.”

Then came the tears.

“The whole having people surrounding him is probably a lot for him,” she said. “But if he’s in his zone, doing what he likes to do, then it probably doesn’t bother him.”

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them.


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