ASU grad with cerebral palsy tells her story through artwork

Liliana Flores poses in front of her senior art exhibition, with the words "A Mile Through" on the wall behind her.

Liliana Flores poses at her senior art exhibition. Courtesy photo


Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

Liliana Flores is a senior majoring in painting and drawing at The School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. She enjoys painting the beautiful Arizona landscape, as well as colorful, intricate and stylistic portraits that symbolize her story.

Now, as she prepares to graduate this spring, Flores reflects on her journey up until this point. Being a TRIO student, Flores says she has enjoyed the opportunities and support the program has been able to provide. TRIO at Arizona State University is a set of federally funded college opportunity programs designed to support students with disabilities, veterans and those who come from first-generation or low-income families.

A wall with art hanging on it
Paintings and drawings from the "A Mile Through My Eyes" gallery, an art gallery comprising the works of eight senior artists including Flores. Courtesy photo

“TRIO has been really supportive,” Flores said. “I was afraid when I came to ASU, thinking I wasn’t going to get the help I needed. But they have been so supporting and wonderful. Every time I need to talk to my counselor Jay, he is always there, or anybody else — they always support me.” 

After high school, Flores wanted to pursue art at Central Arizona College, but was initially discouraged by her doctor.

“I signed up, and I went with my doctor, Diaz, to see how they could support me,” Flores explained. “My doctor examined me, and said, ‘Forget about college, you are never going to learn. You haven’t been in school for a long time, so you are just going to be wasting your time.’”  

Flores was originally inspired to paint by her former high school bus driver and family friend Carole, who died of cancer. This motivation, coupled with her passion, her family’s support and the support of Carole’s husband, Howard, pushed Flores to follow her dreams. 

“I graduated from Central Arizona College with my Associate in Art and Associate in Business,” Flores said. “After I graduated from CAC, I decided I wanted to pursue my dream as an artist. So I applied to ASU, and this is how I met TRIO.” 

While Flores had initial reservations about coming to a university, ASU and the TRIO family have helped make her feel a sense of belonging. 

“Everybody was saying, ‘Are you sure you want to go to university, because it will be worse than college,’” Flores explained. “Well, I think it is way better than college! The TRIO family supports me, even emotionally when I’m feeling down. They are always cheering me up, telling me ‘You can do this, don't give up,’ and now I am about to graduate from ASU.” 

While TRIO has helped support Flores throughout her time at ASU, it’s been the continuous determination and positive attitude Flores constantly exudes that has gotten her to where she is.

“I learned how to be more confident with myself,” said Flores. “Nobody would support me sometimes, and I could be too hard on myself. I’m learning it’s OK to make mistakes — that’s the way you grow, by making mistakes. You get stronger, and I feel a lot stronger and more confident in myself. 

“I’m able to help more people,” Flores continued. “I just want to tell everybody I know, life is hard, we have our ups and downs, but keep following your dreams. If you just stop, you’re not going to be happy. We are the ones who decide how we want to live.”

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