CAREER FOCUSED: CCHS grad leans on early learning for bright career

COLUMBIA CITY — 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 Gareiss’ graduation from Grace College where she has earned a degree in graphic design and a minor in photography.“I know it is a lot of change in a short amount of time, but we are excited,” Gareiss said. However, graduation is coming earlier than anticipated. Because of Gareiss’ choice to utilize Columbia City High School’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.“His class gave me self confidence,” Gareiss said. “He helped me instill my passion for photography.”Gareiss said Moore’s motto is “doing is learning,” and in that spirit she accompanied Moore as a sort of intern for his photo shoots booked through Moore’s photography business.“I got to help with weddings and be that second camera for him,” Gareiss said. “It was challenging because you have to know how to adapt on the spot. You don’t get to control things like the room's lighting when you are standing in a reception hall.”Real-life situations gave Gareiss a true idea of what a career in photography would look like. “I learned how to work with people,” she said. “That was probably my biggest lesson.”As a child, Gareiss enjoyed arts and crafts.“Some of my favorite memories are of me and my cousin, Logan, drawing and painting,” Gareiss said. “Those were special times. It makes me remember the innocence of designing and creating as a child.”As Gareiss transitioned in to her college studies, she gained opportunities that took her from the classroom to field experience.“One of the neat things I was able to do was to be the photographer for Grace’s homecoming event in the fall,” said Gareiss. “That was unique because they offered it to me personally, and it was the 75th anniversary so there were a lot of special people there.”Gareiss is the head photographer for Grace College’s newspaper and yearbook. “Getting to have a press badge means access to places no one else gets to go,” Gareiss said.One particular all-access pass came when she was able to photograph Laura Bush as she visited the college.“There 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,” Gareiss said. “Then we only had two minutes to get our pictures and get out. There were a ton of other media representatives there. It was crazy.”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.“Chad really trusted me to be creative and do my own thing,” said Gareiss. “Giving me those opportunities really made all the difference.”Gareiss offered some words of advice for those students getting a taste of graphic design and photography classes at CCHS.“Get involved and take as many classes as you can. The more classes you take, the more you will gain from it,” she said. “Go after real life experiences. When it comes to your resume, people want to see what you’ve done in the real world, not class projects.”