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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.
â€śI know it is a lot of change in a short amount of time, but we are excited,â€ť Gareiss said.
However, graduation is coming earlier than anticipated. Because of Gareissâ€™ choice to utilize Columbia City High Schoolâ€™s 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.
â€śHis class gave me self confidence,â€ť Gareiss said. â€śHe helped me instill my passion for photography.â€ť
Gareiss said Mooreâ€™s motto is â€śdoing is learning,â€ť and in that spirit she accompanied Moore as a sort of intern for his photo shoots booked through Mooreâ€™s photography business.
â€śI got to help with weddings and be that second camera for him,â€ť Gareiss said. â€śIt was challenging because you have to know how to adapt on the spot. You donâ€™t get to control things like the room's lighting when you are standing in a reception hall.â€ť
Real-life situations gave Gareiss a true idea of what a career in photography would look like.
â€śI learned how to work with people,â€ť she said. â€śThat was probably my biggest lesson.â€ť
As a child, Gareiss enjoyed arts and crafts.
â€śSome of my favorite memories are of me and my cousin, Logan, drawing and painting,â€ť Gareiss said. â€śThose were special times. It makes me remember the innocence of designing and creating as a child.â€ť
As Gareiss transitioned in to her college studies, she gained opportunities that took her from the classroom to field experience.
â€śOne of the neat things I was able to do was to be the photographer for Graceâ€™s homecoming event in the fall,â€ť said Gareiss. â€śThat 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€ť
Gareiss is the head photographer for Grace Collegeâ€™s newspaper and yearbook. â€śGetting to have a press badge means access to places no one else gets to go,â€ť Gareiss said.
One particular all-access pass came when she was able to photograph Laura Bush as she visited the college.
â€śThere 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€ť Gareiss said. â€śThen 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€ť
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.
â€śChad really trusted me to be creative and do my own thing,â€ť said Gareiss. â€śGiving me those opportunities really made all the difference.â€ť
Gareiss offered some words of advice for those students getting a taste of graphic design and photography classes at CCHS.
â€śGet involved and take as many classes as you can. The more classes you take, the more you will gain from it,â€ť she said. â€śGo after real life experiences. When it comes to your resume, people want to see what youâ€™ve done in the real world, not class projects.â€ť