Creative Safety Supply is excited to announce that Katie Russell as the winner of our 2022 Winter Scholarship.Creative Safety Supply is excited to announce that Katie Russell is the winner of our 2022 Winter Scholarship. Our scholarship program provides financial assistance to students pursuing their education. We appreciate the hundreds of essays and applications submitted by students and enjoy reading so many different stories. 

We are happy to publish Katie’s essays in their entirety here:

1. What career path have you chosen? What made you choose this path? 

With one eye shut and the other eagle-eyed squinting to see through the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed I feel innovative. I usually break the silence with something cheesy like, “Now nuzzle your noses together.” The couples often blush and it adds vulnerability and realness to the moment I’m photographing. I have the creative freedom to express myself through movement, light, colors, and models. I have chosen photography as my career path because of the creative liberties and opportunity for service within it. I have a deep love for service and find ways to incorporate my love for taking photos into that. 

Although photography is now my job, I actually began it as a service project. After high school, your community wants to celebrate you before college. I am sure that most of us had ceremonies followed by a graduation party and high-end sessions for senior photos for your graduation announcements. However, not every family can afford all of these exciting things. While on the yearbook staff, I learned that high schools often require graduates to turn in photos for the newspaper, or yearbook, or to display at graduation. This requirement creates stress within households when a senior photo session can become pricey. I donated 17 free senior photoshoots to families facing economic hardships. One of my seniors I photographed wrote, “With Covid-19, my family has been tight on money, seeing as I have a family of 6. Normal photographers are like $400+ — My family could not afford that.” I was proud to provide high-quality senior portraits to celebrate their accomplishment of graduation. 

Outside of my own service project, I’ve also helped various organizations. For instance, I was a volunteer photographer for Camp Rainbow Gold. Camp Rainbow Gold is an organization that provides emotionally challenging experiences for Idaho’s children diagnosed with cancer. I was able to capture many vulnerable moments for such a touching cause. Combining my love for 

photography and passion for service gave the organization content they can use to advertise themselves to potential donors. I also took thank you photos of the kids holding up sponsored signs as appreciation. I am able to contribute to something much bigger than myself by using my talent. 

If I didn’t use my talents I could not have contributed as much as I did. When everyone uses their own strengths and talents then it creates a well-rounded organization that operates through the diversity of individuals. While my community service involvement and photography business has filled me with pride, all the credit goes to my family, peers, and school for the support given to me. They motivate me to give back to others in a similar way people have for me. I’m excited to grow my photography business and service projects through creative liberties and my passion for service. 

2. How have you used creative thinking/problem-solving to help you accomplish your academic or personal goals? 

I’ve never been fond of heights or crowds of people. Despite that, I found a love for something that encompasses both. The sport of cheerleading has been a passion of mine since my freshman year of high school. I spent my younger years looking for an outlet that didn’t make me feel like the underdog. My lack of hand-eye coordination turned me into the girl who always had a positive attitude on the “B team” in sports like volleyball and basketball. I naturally excelled in cheerleading due to my fun-spirited dance moves and fearless ability to try new stunts. I spent my freshman and sophomore years growing the cheerleading program. We even qualified for state and landed a couple of district titles. I was scouted by a college coach which sparked the idea of collegiate cheerleading. Due to having such a small school, the cheer program started to die my junior year and was completely gone by my senior year. I was under the impression I would no longer participate in competitive cheerleading. I had to get creative to solve my dilemma and accomplish my personal goal of becoming a collegiate cheerleader. 

Since I lived in such a small town, oftentimes students would travel to a larger school 30 minutes away to participate in a sport we didn’t have. I talked to my athletic director and the Weiser Cheer Coach about doing a co-op with their team. In the past, Weiser has won state and holds their team to a very high standard. I tried out for one of the twenty-seven spots on the team against fifty-five other girls. To my excitement, I made the team, and I was the main base in my stunt group. We cheered at all of the home games and prepared our routines for competitions. We competed at the Treasure Valley Competition where we won the overall grand champion. This meant we beat all larger 4A and 5A schools. Weiser, a 3A school, had never done that before. 

That experience taught me to go for things even if they seem challenging. There were setbacks with being a part of the team like traveling daily and waking up at 4 a.m. for morning practices, but the reward was greater. The connections I made with teammates, as well as the knowledge my coaches gave me were worth it. This situation began with me being upset about reality, but I chose to look for a solution and remain hopeful. I learned to always go for things you’re enticed in. The worst that can happen is you not being granted the position you’re anticipating, but at least you tried. 

I took what I learned from this experience and tried out for the University of Idaho Cheerleading Squad last spring. The odds were against me considering I lack tumbling skills. However, I spent many hours practicing dances, perfecting my resume and tryout packet, and sharpening my stunting skills to land a spot on the team. This year I got to be on the sideline as the Vandals had one of their most successful football seasons in years. I look forward to representing my university at nationals in February. 

I am grateful for the chance to continue my growth and passion for the sport of cheerleading. I look forward to using the many life lessons I’ve learned through high school and collegiate cheer. I have to push myself against the odds to achieve my aspirations at times. I get to apply this lesson in other offices and positions that I take throughout college. 

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