Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were eight years old? EPCC’s Mario Ulloa remembers. His teacher gave him a box of crayons in the third grade.
As he used the different colors to complete the class project, it was like a whole world opened up to him and he knew he wanted to be an artist someday. Through talent, perseverance and enrolling at El Paso Community College (EPCC), Mario reached his goals.
Mario continued to pursue art throughout middle and high school, working to improve his skills whenever he could. He entered competitions and often won prizes, further confirming that he was on the right path. He enrolled in a vocational art program, Commercial Art at Technical Tech, a school associated with Irvin High School.
The technical school was in downtown El Paso and Mario would take a bus from Irvin High School each day. Riding past the International Art Museum, Mario told himself that one day he would have art that hung there. Mario accomplished this lifelong dream in a show at the International Museum of Art, happening now through October 31st.
But the road to realizing his dreams had roadblocks, the most challenging being an 18-year prison sentence on a drug-related conviction. While incarcerated, Mario made the best of his situation. He continued to study and practice art, eventually teaching courses to other inmates in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
When Mario returned home after finished serving his sentence, he kept to the routine he had in prison. He got up early, ate breakfast, did exercises and then worked on his art. He was hesitant to go back into society, especially eschewing large crowds.
But he knew that going back to school would give him the knowledge to succeed so he decided to enroll at EPCC. He connected with Graphic Arts Professor David Galatzan, who guided him, helping determine the courses Mario needed to complete a certificate in Graphic Design. Mario says, “EPCC has definitely improved my life in many ways. I learned about the many programs that would help my art, for example making my own digital logo and adding it to my business cards, postcards, posters, banners, and website.” David Galatzan finds Mario inspirational and well-deserving of the attention he’s getting. “Mario Ulloa is a true success story about an individual with superior artistic abilities that always strives to be the very best at his craft!”
Completing the certificate in Graphic Design was challenging; Mario had to learn computers and the programs associated with them. But he was able to do it. After reaching that first goal and completing his certificate, Mario felt determined to get his associates degree as well. He did the additional year of coursework needed, finding value in general education classes. Mario says, “The proudest moment was walking to receive an associate degree in Graphic Designs with my family there to support me.”
Lisa Miller, an Art Professor at EPCC’s Transmountain Campus who had Mario as a student, says: “Mario is an excellent example of what determination and commitment can achieve. In the classroom, he was focused, and I learned a few new things from him too, like the correct pronunciation of certain Spanish terms. His education along the way helped form connections and new skills that he can rely on to build his career.”
Mario’s exhibition continues through the end of this month at the International Museum. After its conclusion, he plans to open his own gallery space where he can sell his art. He also wants to establish a non-profit to teach art to underprivileged children. Education and art have been integral to his life. Mario wants to share his talents to create opportunities for others to find the same success and fulfillment he has achieved.