Acting on an assignment for a University of Tampa art and technology class April 19, Brandon resident Martin Mozzachiodi filmed two costumed singers at Westfield Brandon mall.
The two young women, Mozzachiodi’s 19-year-old daughter, Maria, and her friend Alyssa Hidalgo, 20, of Brandon, burst into the food court with a yell. They then played ukuleles while singing One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.”
About 14 minutes into Mozzachiodi’s unscripted video art performance, mall security ushered them out.
“If security gets involved, that’s all part of it,” said 49-year-old Mozzachiodi, quoting his professor, Santiago Echeverry. “He said to keep filming.”
Since Mozzachiodi kept filming it proves he will never be afraid of talking to anyone, said Echeverry, adding the worst they can do is say no.
“That is the hidden purpose behind this assignment: use performance art in a way that can transform (students’) lives and impact those who surround them,” Echeverry said. “It is a cathartic process that will make them grow.”
He wasn’t chosen because of his 3.68 grade-point average, said Echeverry. Mozzachiodi best represents the interdisciplinary major, which attracts curious, motivated, nontraditional, mature students.
Mozzachiodi began college at age 45 at Hillsborough Community College after being laid off from his job as inventory control manager and floor-plan analyst for a car-dealership consortium.
At the time, he weighed 430 pounds, a problem he said started after a 1986 injury while serving in the Navy.
He vowed to lose half his weight by the time he graduated college.
He entered the University of Tampa in 2010, underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2011 and is down to 215 pounds, ahead of his December graduation.
“If not for the VA, I couldn’t have afforded to stay in my house," said Mozzachiodi. "They made sure I got my education, gave me a laptop, desktop computer and software for school and future work. They paid for my surgery and give me a stipend to live on while I’m in school. They’ll help me look for a job, create a résumé and prepare for interviews.
“I’ve always worked hard," he said, "because I’ve been on their dime.”
Mozzachiodi, who is a “devoted father, grandfather and husband and very proud of his history and culture,” helps his fellow students, veterans and others, and has “an amazing learning attitude,” said Echeverry.
“He was already able to transform his own body; now he is proving he is able to confront anything,” said Echeverry. “We need more students like him, especially in such a difficult and competitive field that requires thinking with both sides of the brain. And his personal health story is an inspiration for all of us.”