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  • PCC student earns national grant

    Kim Kowalski

    Kim Kowalski has been flexing her entrepreneurial skills for a while now. This summer they helped her land a national grant.

    Kowalski, a Pueblo Community College art student and graduate of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program, recently received the Female Veteran Grant from the Women’s Jewelry Association. She accepted the honor at the WJA’s Awards for Excellence Gala in New York City and spoke in front of a crowd of 600 people.

    The grant made it possible for her to take more classes in PCC’s art department this semester and will allow her to purchase some specialized equipment and materials for her jewelry-making business. She has had a successful shop on Etsy – Clever Kim’s Curios – since 2013. Her unique jewelry has been featured on the television shows “The Vampire Diaries,” “The Fosters” and “Stitchers,” as well as in the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Eye-Popping Oddities” 2015 edition.

     “Kim came to the department knowing what she wanted to do with her jewelry but she needed a little technical help to refine her work and take it to the next level,” said David Edwards, chair of PCC’s Fine Arts and Humanities department. “Often when a student feels that they have an established style, they become very resistant to different possibilities. This has never been a problem for Kim, as she is very open to new possibilities and concept directions.

    “That trait, coupled with her ability to focus on her work and get things done, is what makes her very special as a student. To me, she has the right stuff necessary for an artist to become very successful.”

    Kowalski praised Edwards, Don Allen, Bruce Huntsman and Susan Pelto in the art department for broadening her knowledge and thanked her instructors in the OTA program, Tricia Vigil and Jenn Geitner, for teaching her to be “more professional, more confident and more successful.”

    “(When I was giving the WJA speech) I remember thinking about how thankful I was that (Vigil and Geitner) made us do so many presentations in front of the class,” said Kowalski. “I mean, if I can handle Jenn – who knows my weaknesses and capabilities – watching like a hawk from the back of the room, I can deal with these fancy people who don’t really know me.”

    After completing courses this semester, Kowalski wants to continue on her entrepreneurial path, building a career that combines her jewelry-making abilities with occupational therapy.

    “I want to offer classes for students who are unable, for health or behavioral reasons, to attend traditional schools and are home-schooled instead,” she said. “The kids will learn to make simple jewelry and other crafts, but I’ll also be using therapeutic methods to coach and educate them on appropriate social behaviors like sharing, taking turns and self-control.”

    And for anyone trying to find more funds to continue their college career, Kowalski has some simple guidance.

    “If there’s any message to other students, it’s this: Figure out how to work Google and figure out what niche group you are in,” she said. “I’m a woman, a veteran, a jeweler and an occupational therapy assistant, and being aware of all these things helped me get the grant.”

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    Founded in 1933, Pueblo Community College is a premier teaching institution focused on providing academic and service excellence to help its students acquire the 21st Century skills needed to better their lives. An educational and technological leader, PCC fosters economic development and utilizes strong partnerships in the communities it serves through its Pueblo, Fremont and Southwest campuses.