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COLUMBIA CITY â Cassie Gareiss, of Columbia City, is a 21 year old facing several changes in a short period of time. She is engaged to Colton Streeter and the couple is planning a wedding later this summer.
The couple will also be relocating to Indianapolis.
These events will follow Gareissâ graduation from Grace College where she has earned a degree in graphic design and a minor in photography.
âI know it is a lot of change in a short amount of time, but we are excited,â Gareiss said.
However, graduation is coming earlier than anticipated. Because of Gareissâ choice to utilize Columbia City High Schoolâs dual credit program, she will finish her college education a year early.
College credits were not the only thing Gareiss picked up while taking classes at CCHS. She earned a special nod from art teacher Chad Moore who gave her the chance to try her talent in the field.
âHis class gave me self confidence,â Gareiss said. âHe helped me instill my passion for photography.â
Gareiss said Mooreâs motto is âdoing is learning,â and in that spirit she accompanied Moore as a sort of intern for his photo shoots booked through Mooreâs photography business.
âI got to help with weddings and be that second camera for him,â Gareiss said. âIt was challenging because you have to know how to adapt on the spot. You donât get to control things like the room's lighting when you are standing in a reception hall.â
Real-life situations gave Gareiss a true idea of what a career in photography would look like.
âI learned how to work with people,â she said. âThat was probably my biggest lesson.â
As a child, Gareiss enjoyed arts and crafts.
âSome of my favorite memories are of me and my cousin, Logan, drawing and painting,â Gareiss said. âThose were special times. It makes me remember the innocence of designing and creating as a child.â
As Gareiss transitioned in to her college studies, she gained opportunities that took her from the classroom to field experience.
âOne of the neat things I was able to do was to be the photographer for Graceâs homecoming event in the fall,â said Gareiss. âThat was unique because they offered it to me personally, and it was the 75th anniversary so there were a lot of special people there.â
Gareiss is the head photographer for Grace Collegeâs newspaper and yearbook. âGetting to have a press badge means access to places no one else gets to go,â Gareiss said.
One particular all-access pass came when she was able to photograph Laura Bush as she visited the college.
âThere was secret service that we had to check in with and so many things we had to do before we could even get near her,â Gareiss said. âThen we only had two minutes to get our pictures and get out. There were a ton of other media representatives there. It was crazy.â
As Gareiss leaps into the next phase of her life and her career, her courage to strike out on her own is rooted in her high school mentor.
âChad really trusted me to be creative and do my own thing,â said Gareiss. âGiving me those opportunities really made all the difference.â
Gareiss offered some words of advice for those students getting a taste of graphic design and photography classes at CCHS.
âGet involved and take as many classes as you can. The more classes you take, the more you will gain from it,â she said. âGo after real life experiences. When it comes to your resume, people want to see what youâve done in the real world, not class projects.â