By Janice Llanes Fabry
At 16, Nicole Pereira, is a driven, resourceful teenager determined to make a difference. With a paintbrush in one hand and her own website in the other, she is raising funds to find a cure for a brain disorder that affects 2 million Americans.
“I want to make an impact on the world,” she remarked. “I know that sounds ambitious, but through a Science Research course at school, I started focusing on epilepsy and autism.”
The Rye Neck High School junior is enrolled in a three-year elective under the District’s Independent Learner Program and in cooperation with SUNY Albany. She is required to work on a single project and build upon it every year.
Pereira chose epilepsy and autism because she has always been fascinated by the medical field, not surprising with a nurse for a mother and an orthopedic surgeon for a father.
“I especially love neuroscience and hope to major in that or in pre-med in college,” she said. “Last year for the Science Research course, I researched the connections between autism and epilepsy and found that a common cause of both was Valporic Acid (VPA). This year, I’m studying the effects of VPA on the neurodevelopment of different species.”
Despite the fact that Pereira has a full course load, has begun studying for the SAT’s, goes on college visits, and picks up babysitting jobs, she is committed to supporting the efforts of medical advancements in the field. During her research, she stumbled upon an organization for which she’d like to raise funds.
That’s where her painting comes in. Does a left-brain, scientific teenager also have a creative side? “As a kid, I always liked making things and messing around with painting,” she said. “When I was in the eighth grade, my parents gave me a watercolor set for Christmas. I started painting animals.”
After accumulating an impressive collection of these original watercolor works, Pereira created sets of notecards with her artwork to sell and donate the proceeds to FACES (Finding a Cure for Epilepsy and Seizures) at NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. FACES needs funding for cutting-edge research and clinical care. In addition, it offers various programs and support networks for patients and their families.
Pereira’s Wildlife with Watercolors, a catchy name “my dad helped me come up with,” is divided into separate sets. “Swiss Alps” has red moose and bears; “Rio” offers alligators and flamencos; “Cairo” has elephants and giraffes; “Great Barrier Reef” has dolphins and shark, the drawing that started it all. A new baby card set includes pink elephants, green ducks, and blue octopus.
“I use a thin, long brush and I like lines, splatters, and drips, so each painting is loose, as if it just formed on the paper,” she explained. “The process takes a while because I have to wait for parts to dry before continuing. The packaging is minimalistic, too.”
This fall, she has expanded her line. “I ventured out and started painting Christmas trees for the holidays and sports players. They were actually a request from my two younger brothers, who needed thank you notes appropriate for young boys,” she said about her brothers Matt, 12, and Luke, 9.
No matter the theme, Pereira positions a tiny heart at each card’s corner as a result of a mother-daughter ritual. “Every time my mom and I see hearts, we like to point them out to one another,” said the teen, whose logo is a heart surrounded by three W’s for Wildlife with Watercolors.
The notecards sell for $19.50 per set of 21 cards. Visit www.WildlifeWithWatercolors.com for more information.
And sample of Wildlife with Watercolors notecards