We had the good fortune of connecting with Rebecca Engle and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Rebecca, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
During my senior year of high school, the COVID pandemic left me with a lot of free time since I wasn’t working. To keep myself occupied, I began creating various items. As I continued, I discovered that there was a market for what I was making, and I could sell these creations for money. This realization sparked my interest in pursuing a more serious artistic and creative path.

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Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In the intricate fabric of who I am, there’s no room for the notion of laziness. Anyone who’s crossed paths with me would never toss around that label or anything hinting at idleness. Opinions about me are a mixed bag—from silky-straight locks to sheep-like tendrils, from being a chatterbox to moments of quiet reflection. Kindness and generosity overflow, though Mondays might be an exception. As a daughter, sister, friend, and sometimes rival, the tag of laziness has never stuck. Being driven isn’t just something to admire; it’s a core part of me that’s led me on a journey to find my place in this world.

My art is deeply personal and unique, shaped by my life experiences and the challenges I’ve faced. What sets me apart from others is the raw, honest inspiration drawn from my mental health struggles and my journey as a neurodivergent individual. My poetry, in particular, reflects these themes, serving as a voice for my emotions and experiences. Each piece I create is an exploration of my inner world, a way to communicate the complexities of living with mental health issues and neurodivergence.

The path to where I am today has been far from easy. Early on, life handed me lessons about the perils of standing still. As a toddler diagnosed with speech and developmental delays, at three, I grappled with silence and sensory challenges. My folks describe me as stubborn, unpredictable, exhausting, and undeniably cute. Therapists used labels like nonverbal and delayed, playing hopscotch with diagnoses like Apraxia, Autism, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. Limited by military insurance, local therapists and doctors often kept things textbook-bound and routine.

Through countless IEP meetings, a mom who turned research into an art form, navigating school changes, Special Education reassessments, and the guidance of teachers who saw my potential, my journey unfolded. My drive, clocking thousands of volunteer hours each year for various causes since the 5th grade, became a testament to my unwavering effort. Amid this evolving story, one thing stayed constant—the commitment to giving it my all, 100 percent.

As my words found their way out, they became more than just sounds. They became carriers of pride, determination, and a burning desire to overcome. With quirks acknowledged and an awareness of my differences, I embraced the truth—I’m capable and strong. I might not always be the best, but my determination never wavers. Pervasive developmental disorder and delays aren’t roadblocks; they’re threads woven into the fabric of my story, shaping an indomitable spirit that faces challenges one step at a time.

At the end of 5th grade, I managed to speak at my elementary school graduation, shed all paperwork, and enter middle school as an honors student with no 504/IEP. Despite the success, I still had my battles, being bullied by peers for my quirks. I went through three years of middle school trying to discover who I was through community service. I found my love of crafting and my love of serving my community. That’s who I became. I wanted nothing but that.

Entering high school, I found myself effortlessly mirroring my older brothers’ paths. The eldest excelled with a 5.0 GPA in full AP coursework, while the other thrived in the Wind Ensemble band. As I required Fine Arts and Physical Education credits and aspired to secure commendable grades, I decided to emulate their experiences. However, my disabilities set me apart as a hardworking oddball, often secluded from the group dynamics. Juggling classes proved more challenging than anticipated, leading to a decline in grades and spending significant time with those who didn’t resonate with me. While I found solace in volunteering for the school coffee shop in the early mornings, I felt isolated, grappling with a hefty course load, and harboring guilt for not meeting the standards set by my accomplished brothers.

Over time, I found confidence in diverse areas. Upon closer inspection, the realization dawned that my discontent stemmed from a lack of focus on my own desires. Two years had been spent trying to emulate someone else’s ideal high school experience, realizing I am not my brothers. Thus, a self-evaluation unfolded I loved to volunteer, aspired to teach, and enjoyed mentoring.

Taking a proactive step, I applied for the Peer Assistance and Leadership and Service course and Instructional Practices In Education and Training programs. Surprisingly, amidst the struggle, I discovered substantial progress. Graduating a year earlier than projected became feasible with just a few more credits, allowing me to enroll in summer classes. The hard work paid off, bypassing Junior year entirely and commencing this year as a Senior. Selected for both programs I applied for, I carved out space in my schedule for more challenging courses, enjoying a successful year immersed in pursuits I am passionate about.

As I took my leave from the halls of high school earlier than most, with the absence of IEP/504 accommodations, I ventured into college life brimming with optimism and anticipation. Initially, the academic landscape of college painted a promising picture, with accolades and constructive criticism weaving the narrative of personal growth. Little did I know that the path I envisioned was about to embark on an unexpected and transformative journey.

Driven by a desire for proximity to family and navigating the challenges of foot issues, I made a profound decision to relocate home for my sophomore year, commencing in the fall of 2021. Eager to expedite my academic journey, I set my sights on early entry into the teacher education program—a challenging three-semester commitment. Encouraged by faculty who recognized my capabilities and the countless hours invested in my studies, I embarked on this ambitious path with the hope of not only fast-tracking my college journey but also immersing myself in field experience ahead of my peers.

However, the script took an unforeseen twist. A decline letter followed a promising interview, plunging me into a state of confusion and deep self-reflection. Isolated within a department where camaraderie seemed elusive, and group chats remained a distant dream, I turned to the very professors who had penned the disheartening missive, seeking answers to this unexpected detour.

To add to the bewildering mix, one professor’s question lingered in my mind: “Do you think everyone around you is neurotypical?” Dismissing this assumption, the subsequent advice to “learn to mask” hit me like a ton of bricks. Seeking validation, I embarked on a transformative journey of self-discovery, seeking advice from neurotypical friends, and desperately searching for answers throughout the following year. The subsequent application in October 2022, during my third year of college, resulted in acceptance on “special terms.” This entailed adhering to guidelines, attending extra meetings, and engaging at a higher level compared to my peers in the program. However, the promised meetings to address my perceived deficiencies in communication and social skills never materialized. Despite my consistent efforts to schedule these sessions, my pleas were met with deafening silence.

A pivotal moment arrived on September 26, 2023, nearly nine months later, as the process for the final semester of the program unfolded. In a meeting with three professors, I found myself under attack, criticized for my supposed lack of communication skills, and the perception that academia was my sole strength. This disheartening encounter systematically picked apart my individuality, even scrutinizing my social interactions, oblivious to my struggle with a sensory processing disorder. Notably, the critique included my limited participation in social events due to my condition and recent attainment of the legal drinking age factors overlooked in their assessment.

The revelation that my peers would learn about the next steps of the program in November while I remained in the dark until December was a turning point. Recognizing the incessant scrutiny and the evident reluctance to acknowledge my growth, abilities, and unique circumstances, I decided to reclaim my narrative. On that decisive day, I reached out to the graduation office, signaling the beginning of my departure from the traditional path set by the teacher education program. Opting for an early graduation, I redirected my trajectory toward alternative avenues to fulfill my dream of becoming an educator. Now immersed in graduate school, I navigate the complexities of obtaining my teaching certification, propelled by an unwavering commitment to my unique journey and pursuit of genuine fulfillment in the realm of education. This intricate tapestry, woven with the threads of resilience and self-discovery, continues to unfold, marking my indelible imprint on the vast canvas of my educational odyssey.

What sets my art, and my story apart is not just the work I produce but the resilience, dedication, and drive that underpins every creation. I have faced numerous challenges head-on, learning invaluable lessons about self-advocacy, the importance of following one’s passions, and the power of perseverance. My poetry, inspired by my mental health struggles and experiences as a neurodivergent individual, is a testament to my journey and the strength I have cultivated along the way.

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Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to give a heartfelt shoutout to Brenda Anz, the Founder of Women Unlimited International. Brenda and the organization have played a crucial role in my personal and professional development. They saw my potential and invested in me at a time when I was still discovering my own abilities. Brenda’s encouragement and mentorship have been invaluable, helping me to uncover and nurture talents I didn’t even know I had. Women Unlimited International provided me with opportunities to grow, learn, and expand my horizons, and their belief in me has been a constant source of motivation. I am deeply grateful for their unwavering support, which has been instrumental in shaping my journey and helping me achieve my goals.

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Instagram: https://crafts.rebe

Linkedin: Rebecca Engle B.A

Facebook: Rebe Crafts

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Image Credits
Infinite Photography SA – Mandy Rose Kadura

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutDFW is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.