Deciding that you want to “pay it forward” is an important step for anyone. The decision for Kaitlyn Hamilton has been one that has become clearer and clearer as her education has continued to progress. Now, transitioning into her senior year at Plymouth State University, the 2016 graduate of Woodsville High School and the 21st Century Media and Design Program at River Bend Career and Technical Center is confident that this is the right direction for her in her future.
Seven or eight years ago, Kaitlyn was really not sure where her future might take her. It is not unusual to not really have an idea of what you might want to do in your lifetime when you enter high school. In Kaitlyn’s case, she knew the things she liked and enjoyed, she knew what she might not be interested in, she knew that her family was pretty much all musically inclined, except her, but she had no idea where to go from there. In her high school freshmen year, she had the opportunity to take a foods class, which piqued her interest into possibly becoming a chef. Still not knowing what was next, in her sophomore year her two guidance counselors encouraged her to take a tour at River Bend Career and Technical Center and try some programs. As they sometimes say, “the rest is history!" When Kaitlyn sat down in Instructor Mr. Tony Daniels' 21st Century Media and Design Class (it was called Gaming and Animation in 2014), the light bulb lit up and she knew she had found a direction that she loved! Surprisingly, well after Kaitlyn started down the path of graphic design, she found that her grandfather on her Dad’s side, whom she had never met, turned out to be a graphic artist in his profession!
Kaitlyn immersed herself in her program at River Bend, learning all of the latest programs related to design and animation at the time. She became very proficient in things like Adobe Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator, all of which have been a tremendous help in her college studies. While at River Bend, she took on a number of well-received poster projects for the community and an Upper Valley Art Program project. She also took all of the art classes offered at her high school at the same time, so her high school art teacher, Mrs. Stephanie Marston, actually created a class for her in her senior year called “Portfolio Development”, which greatly helped Kaitlyn organize her work and become prepared for art school interviews. This course, and the encouragement from her teachers also led to some significant scholarship help for college! Mrs. Marston was also very helpful in terms of having Kaitlyn look at the Graphic Design program at Plymouth State University, proving to be a very economical alternative to some of the other more traditional, much higher priced art schools. Her River Bend instructor, Mr. Daniels, was a huge influence in her development, as well, helping to modify his curriculum for her as her interests in certain areas grew and developed. Mr. Daniels remains a mentor to Kaitlyn, and has recently been helpful in a big decision Kaitlyn has been thinking about.
After high school graduation, Kaitlyn began in the Graphic Design program at Plymouth State University (PSU). She has thoroughly enjoyed her experience at PSU, finding that her experience in design at River Bend has given her a real head start in the core classes she has encountered in the Graphic Design Department. With the skills learned in her two years in Mr. Daniels’ class, she has become a mentor to many of her classmates at PSU, who were lacking this type of training in high school. During the fall of 2018, she was given the opportunity to take an internship program in the graphic design department at Dartmouth College. Her Dartmouth experience allowed her to have the opportunity to design posters for the college, brochures for departments and handle different graphic design projects that came to her. In addition, she has developed a little “freelance” work in designing logos for a little league team, a small shopping business and even for a professor’s department at the University. If this isn’t enough to keep her busy, she is the production manager for “The Clock”, which is the student newspaper at Plymouth State University!
As her experiences have grown in the graphic design world, and as she has grown herself, Kaitlyn has wrestled with the age-old question of what is meaningful in our lives. Reflecting on her experiences, talents and abilities, she has come to realize the importance of important people in her life that have made the difference for her. People like Mr. Daniels at River Bend and Mrs. Marston at Woodsville High School, as well as countless others along the way, have given to her something valuable to help her grow and develop. This gift of mentoring or teaching others has become a driving force for Kaitlyn to consider for the future. She has reflected on the satisfaction it has given her to help other classmates at PSU learn things that she could teach them. So, as a person nearing graduation in one direction, should she suddenly change her major? She sought advice from others and discussed her situation with the University. She contacted her teacher from River Bend, Mr. Daniels, and asked him about switching to a career in teaching. His advice, after listening to all of her reasoning was: “Yeah, I think you’d be great! Honestly, our profession can always use people just like you!”
So now Kaitlyn is on a slightly different track to “pay it forward”. She is now on track to complete her degree by the fall of 2020, achieving a major in Art Education with a minor in Graphic Design! She has taken many of the required classes already and she is excited about her student teaching experience in the future. At this point she is thinking that teaching art at the high school level is a strong possibility, although she has not ruled out elementary education or opportunities for teaching in the higher education arena. She will be working with children this summer as a counselor and art teacher at a YMCA camp in Massachusetts. To her, “It feels so good to be a mentor to others as others have been to me!” As any of us in the education field would say, “Well said, Kaitlyn!”