Absecon resident Steven Kucharski, a senior at Charter Tech High School for the Performing Arts in Somers Point, couldn't hear until he received a cochlear implant at age 5. While he's come a long way, 13 years later he still has some trouble communicating through speech. No matter: He's an ace at getting his ideas across on video.

On April 27, Steven was recognized by VSA New Jersey, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to promoting the creative power of people with disabilities, as a 2013 Arts Achievement Award recipient in the film category.

"I feel very proud," Steven said. "It's been a very successful year."

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Steven was one of three Charter Tech students to win a VSA award. The others were dancer Olympia Shepherd and actor Eric Phillips, both of Atlantic City. Dancer Dejenis Mendez, of Pleasantville, was a nominee. Steven , Olympia and Eric also attended the New Jersey State Governor's Awards in Arts Education ceremony May 2.

Steven received the award for his film, "Drowning in Pain," a black-and-white, film noir short about a depressed man drinking his sorrows away in a bar.

Steven was nominated for the honor by Charter Tech special education teacher Kristen Troilo, who said she believes the arts give special education students who might struggle with traditional academic an alternate avenue for success.

"They achieve other things through their art," Troilo said. "Sometimes they're slower at learning with reading and writing, but they achieve it a different way through their art."

Charter Tech principal and dean of curriculum Brian McGuire echoed Troilo's sentiment, saying the students' status as lauded artists needs no qualifiers.

"It doesn't matter that they happen to have an (individualized education plan) or be a special education student," McGuire said. "They're recognized for their talent, and that stands up across the board."

Steven, who is a senior, plans to attend film school after he graduates, although he's not yet sure where he'll go.

This may have been the first award Steven has received for his work behind the camera, but it has given him the desire to hone his craft to ensure it won't be his last.

"Ever since I won this award, I feel like I have the motivation to do (more) in the future," he said. "I'm planning to major in film for the future, when I go to college, so this award really gets me into this field."

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