When Kari Rowe was ready to leave quiet Vashon Island, she took a Running Start. The Washington program allows high schoolers to study at community college. Rowe emerged at the end of her senior year with two years of college already under her belt.
Eager to explore away from home, Rowe spent several months traveling through Europe, an experience that yielded a lifetime's supply of anecdotes. Like her tangle with police on the border between the Czech Republic and Austria.
"I forgot my passport at the hotel in Prague. They have really intense border guards in Austria--guns and everything! They pulled me off the train and stuck me in a room with muzzled dogs for three hours while they found an interpreter. I ended up paying a fine and going back to Prague for my passport."
Rowe followed this adventure by moving to Portland, starting work at Nemo Design, and enrolling in Portland State's graphic design program. She says working while being in school gives her valuable perspective. "At school you have your deadlines but it's not really that big of a deal. It's nothing like graphic design in the real world--you might come in at 6 a.m. some days and not leave until 2 a.m. You just have to do it."
At the end of sophomore year, PSU graphic design students submit portfolios for faculty review. It's a nerve-wracking time, so Rowe was stunned when she learned that not only had she made it through in flying colors, she'd been awarded a top honor--the Justin Eyerly Scholarship, named for a PSU art student who was killed in Iraq while serving in the Oregon National Guard in 2004.
"I was shocked that I won!" The award turned out to be a life saver as Rowe juggled an unexpected financial setback that winter. "Without the scholarship I could only have take one class that term. It's a sad story," she says of Justin Eyerly, "but maybe in a small way the scholarship can help something positive come out of it."
Life is packed these days for Kari Rowe, who works at Nemo Design every day, carries a full course load and homework, and cares for the young daughter of the family she lives with. "It's a lot, yeah, but it's awesome. I get bored in summer--when there's no school, just work. I guess I need to be kind of overwhelmed to be creative."