Alhambra resident Todd Tostado, who lost the use of his arms at age 14 as a result of spinal muscular atrophy, received his bachelor’s degree in art at Cal State Los Angeles this past weekend.
Tostado, who also has been using a ventilator since he was nine due to chronic respiratory failure, enjoyed drawing as a child, but eventually could not use his hands to draw due to the neuromuscular disease that progressively weakened his muscles. His parents bought him his first computer during his senior year at Alhambra High School, and there he began his quest to express himself creatively. With assistive technology, he was able to design and create art digitally.
After graduating from high school, he took art classes at Pasadena City College, then went on to pursue a baccalaureate degree in graphic design at CSULA.
“I chose CSULA for a combination of reasons," Tostado said. "One being its location near my home in Alhambra, and two, traveling long distances with my disability would be difficult on a more than weekly basis. CSULA also has more support resources for disabled students, and easier access to faculty and classes.”
Another reason was that his father graduated from CSULA, and both of his siblings also graduated from Cal State colleges.
When Tostado first transferred to CSULA, a team of engineering faculty and students helped increase his ability to operate a computer. “They were able to take two adaptive computer switches and wire them together, so that the computer would read them as a single control," Tostado said.
The staff at the university’s Office for Students with Disabilities also assisted in converting all his textbooks to digital format by scanning every page in each book. “Being able to read my textbooks without the assistance of someone turning pages saved me countless hours,” said Tostado.
Tostado credits all the CSULA faculty and staff, in particular Gonzalo Centeno, disability management specialist, for assisting him throughout his time at CSULA. “Gonzalo helped me to access all of the available and necessary resources needed for my successful completion of my degree, including nominating me for two scholarships," Tostado said. He also credits Professor Tony Longson for going "above and beyond the confines of the curriculum," and encouraging "students to explore, develop and express their own unique artistic talents."
For his commitment to pursuing a college education despite personal challenges, Tostado was awarded the Richard E. Lewis Scholarship in 2008 and the Jose J. Gonzales Jr. Memorial Scholarship in 2009 and 2010.
Tostado plans on working as a freelance graphic designer as well as exhibiting his artwork in gallery shows.
Samples of Tostado's work can be found at his website.