Student profile: Maria Balestino

With eyes set on Philadelphia University next fall to study fashion design, Williamsport Area High School senior Maria Balestino is pursuing the call of her creative side, one that has beckoned since she can remember and fully unleashed when she came to the district as a middle school student.

With dresses already made and a prom dress nearly finished for the upcoming spring event, the 18-year-old, while artistic in several ways, is no stranger to the cloth.

“I always liked creating new things and working with materials,” Balestino said of fashion, but also works with paint, pencil, clay and even jewelry. “I’m pretty much willing to try any medium. I like mixing abstract with realism – it makes you think, and can be explored on a deeper level.”

Some of her pieces were on display recently in the Genetti Hotel’s ST’Art Gallery, including an opening reception during First Friday, as January’s featured artist.

“That was a great opportunity,” she said. “I was happy with the turn out. A gallery showing isn’t something most people get to do.”

Balestino was home-schooled until her parents, Mark and Karen, enrolled her at Lycoming Valley Middle School in seventh grade. It was there that she began honing her artistic talents on a deeper and broader level.

“It was a totally different experience, but I loved it,” she said. “I was able to do stuff I was never able to do before with the art and music opportunities.”

Balestino said her art teachers pushed and encouraged her to do her best, and it was here where she ultimately developed an interest in figure and fashion drawing.

Also musically inclined, one of her major influences is WAHS teacher Kent Weaver.

During her time as an accompanying pianist for the choir at the high school under Weaver’s direction, she was able to demonstrate her talent at the White House in December. There, she played on what she described as the “most amazing” and “best piano ever.”

Aside from her involvement in the arts, being treasurer for the National Art Honor Society and a member of the community volunteer group WillSERVE, the senior also carries a rigorous course load of two Advanced Placement and two honors courses.

“The teachers expect a lot,” she said. “They want you to work hard, and that’s motivated me to push myself. I think that’s going to help me in college, too, given the amount of work. AP is challenging, and that I think that’s what college is going to be like.”

Her appreciation for her teachers is complemented equally with respect for the administration.

“Mr. (Michael) Reed is doing a really good job at keeping control and is really supportive of talent,” she said of the head principal. “He brings people forward by giving them a shout out, and I think that’s inspiring people.”