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Carissa is an award-winning artist from the United States. She has always had a proclivity to express herself through art. Before she was verbally communicating, she was already drawing and expressing herself through art. She started drawing when she was a toddler, but her art talent became evident at age three. At age six, she was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Growing up, it was a challenge for her to speak to people. She found it helped when she took pencil to paper and began drawing. Art in its many forms helped her express her feelings in a multitude of colors and emotions of characters.
She has been doing art commissions since 1st grade. At 15, she had her first solo art exhibit in Pasadena, California. She has received a wide variety of awards and recognition for her artwork and have been seen in numerous exhibits, fairs, and festivals in Canada and the United States (Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, Brooklyn, Seattle, Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco, Riverside, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.)
Carissa’s autism advocacy includes challenging misconceptions and stereotypes about autism. At 17, she published her first book, The “A” Book, A Collection of Satirical Comments About Autism, which she wrote and illustrated. The book is currently available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and sold in various outlets in Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Singapore, and Japan (click HERE to order at these outlets).
Her advocacy continues with the creation of a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, CPM Foundation, which she co-founded with her grandmother, Carmelita Mordeno. Its mission is to provide programs that enhance and give value to the unique abilities of very special people, often referred to as "special needs”. The CPM programs are centered on those that promote learning in a fun and encouraging environment which includes recreational activities, social skills, and alternative earning opportunities.
As a self-taught artist at a young age and not even sure if she was going to graduate in high school, her parents were relieved to learn of the Creative Arts, Media and Design (CAMAD), a studio arts focused program offered by their school district. She attended the CAMAD's Visual Arts & Design Academy in Pasadena High School. She also attended an advanced arts high school program at the Otis College Arts of Design on a full scholarship awarded by the highly-competitive Ryman Arts. She was also a four-time scholarship recipient of the Art Center College Teen program and the Armory Center of Arts. Throughout high school, she attended art classes, workshops and summer programs in arts, illustration, and animation classes at CalArts, UCLA Summer of Arts, Idyllwild Arts Academy, and Woodbury University.
Carissa recently graduated from high school and was awarded the Pasadena Educational Foundation's Norman Schmidt Visual Arts Scholarship. She got accepted and offered a four-year renewable scholarship at the Otis College of Arts & Design in Los Angeles and the Cornish College of Arts in Seattle. Undecided which college to attend at this time, she has deferred both offers and is currently attending Pasadena City College. .