How One CNM Student Is Using Art to Recover from a Terrifying Accident

It’s been a long road, but Ashley Echavarria has used drawing to help her regain important skills
January 06, 2020

Back in March of 2019, CNM student Ashley Echavarria was in a Jeep with her boyfriend and they were merging onto I-40. Suddenly, the car in front of them slammed on the brakes and her boyfriend swerved to avoid a collision. The next thing Ashley knew, she was waking up from a coma in the UNM hospital.

After her boyfriend swerved, the Jeep rolled and Ashley was ejected. She landed on her right side and fractured her skull, neck, face, pelvis and hip bone, and also had a brain hemorrhage. She was in the intensive care unit at UNM for weeks and didn’t get to come home until the end of April.

Nowadays, you could never tell Ashley was in a serious accident, but she’s still recovering. She’s working on her speech, and also on her fine motor skills. And that’s where art comes in. Last semester she took CNM’s Arts 1610, an intro to drawing class. The class helped her work on her hand-eye coordination, but also helped her feel normal again. After being stuck at home for months, it felt liberating to be back in class.

“I’ve always loved class and work and got depressed because I felt stuck,” she says. “Having a routine where I got ready and was able to drive again really gave me a sense of freedom that I needed.”

Walking into class, Ashley was worried she might be viewed differently after the accident. But it’s been just the opposite. Her classmates and teacher welcomed her in and Ashley’s self-esteem has grown.

“The class has shown her that she can overcome a lot,” says Ashley’s sister, Flora Garcia. “It’s given her a lot of determination both as an artist and as a person.”

Ashley Echavarria

In the class, Ashley has used everything from pen to paint to charcoal and learned how to look at an object and draw it as realistically as possible.

“Most of us tend to draw objects as we see them in our minds instead of how they really are,” says Cheryl Dietz, Ashley’s instructor. “But in this class we’re working on how to render things as realistically and naturally as possible, and Ashley has done a great job.”

Before the accident, Ashley was working through her pre-reqs for the Nursing program. Those classes got put on hold, but she’s going to re-enroll and finish those in the spring. Then she wants to take the Nursing program test this summer and hopes to enroll full-time in that program in the fall. After completing her associate degree, she’ll move onto UNM to get her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).   

In five years, Ashley says she sees herself with a BSN and working in a trauma center. After her experience in the hospital, she wants to be able to give back.

“I saw a lot of patients that didn’t have any family and I want to be there for them,” she says. “That and I’ve always had a strong desire to help people and now I feel that drive even more.”

Ashley Echavarria