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The lightbulb went on for Lina Billings when she walked in the big arena, the ceiling draped in fine...

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First generation student has sights set on Hollywood

As a child, Angela Xayavong taught herself how to draw from books she’d get from the library. Over time, she honed that skill to create comics. It was something that she thought would lead to a career as a comic book artist until something else piqued her interest.

“Years progressed and I really liked to use technology and cameras, so I got into filmmaking with that,” she says.

Today, she’s a junior studying film at CSU’s School of Film and Media Arts, Ohio’s only stand-alone film school in Ohio, with her sights set on the mecca of filmmaking: Los Angeles.

“I want to get an internship in California and work in a movie studio doing camera work.”

Ultimately, she wants to become a director of photography.

While Cleveland is a far cry from the Hollywood hills, Angela says there’s a lot of opportunity in the area for a budding filmmaker, and Cleveland State has given her more exposure than she could have received anywhere else.

That’s what compels her to get up at 6:00 a.m. every day and make the nearly hour commute from Akron to make her first class on campus. To hear her say it, you’d know that it was worth it, but it doesn’t come without its challenges.

An abundance of money is scarce and because she’s a full-time student, she’s only able to work part-time. Plus, traveling from Akron to Cleveland and back again each day exacts a hefty financial burden.

Thankfully, she’s one of the recipients of the Zapis Scholarship, named for longtime Clevelanders Lee and Angeleke Zapis.

Angela said that her scholarship alleviates much of the burden that comes with her daily commute, freeing her to focus on finishing her degree.

“I am thankful that someone believes in my hard work,” she said.

It’s that sort of tenacity – she calls it stubbornness – that will serve her well when she actually does venture cross country to go for her dreams in an industry where success isn’t always guaranteed. She approaches her steps after graduation next year with a degree of realism, but one thing’s certain: she’s not giving up.

“If you give up, you don’t know what’s out there.”

Here’s to all of her dreams coming true.

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