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Lauren Petrakis

Nov. 2011

Lauren Petrakis


            While attending Pendleton County School System, I was often involved in GATES in multiple ways, and I will remain forever grateful for the education I received through this program.  In elementary school, I was always very excited to participate in the Summer Enrichment program, where I was able to spend a few weeks of each summer taking classes in sewing, printmaking, and history.  In middle school, I continued involvement in the Summer Enrichment program, taking classes in photography, science, casting and mold making, and spending time developing the outdoor classroom at Phillip A. Sharp Middle School.  In middle school, I was also able to participate in Artfest, an exciting twist on the traditional science fair with projects focused on the principle of design “emphasis,” and photography.  During the 7th and 8th grades, I was involved advanced art class, and I was able to begin an involvement in printmaking that I hope to never end.  I remember struggling to finish a painting I had started, and deciding to pursue this new art media at the encouragement of Mrs. Lustenberg, rather than simply admitting defeat.  In high school, I continued advanced art classes and prepared an AP Portfolio submission for 2D Design.  After school, I participated in the Pendleton Artist Team, otherwise known as A-Team, and filled the leadership role of president during my junior and senior years of high school.  

                My involvement in GATES greatly impacted my experience while in school, and has continued throughout my education and career.  While in school, GATES created very high expectations of what I expected to experience in college.  I enjoyed the format of GATES and the opportunity to study what interested me most.  GATES enabled me to take responsibility for my education, although at the time I may not have realized that it was occurring.  The opportunity to choose how and what you study is very powerful, and I believe this can encourage all students to further their education.  Unfortunately some students will have a negative school experience, because they are unable to find a topic of interest, but GATES offers the opportunity for students to explore various options, creating a comprehensive educational experience.  GATES creates a unique social environment for students to collaborate, participate, and lead.  While growing into the individual that I am today, I really appreciated the opportunity to spend time studying alongside other students who shared my dedication to learning.  Together we were able to achieve more because as a group we could challenge and inspire each other.  The instructors and peers who participated with me in the GATES Program are those that I still consider to be my closest friends.

                The GATES Program allowed me the opportunity to prepare myself socially, professionally, and academically for some awesome experiences.  While still in high school, I received a fully paid scholarship through Toyota to study in Thailand.  The most rewarding part of this experience was the ability to communicate with people on the other side of the world through art and music, two universal languages.  The following summer I was accepted into the Governor’s Scholars Program, and I spent a few months taking classes at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.  I would encourage anyone participating in GATES to apply for this program.  The format of GSP is very similar to GATES because you spend time studying topics of your choice in unconventional ways, which only makes the experience more enjoyable and interesting.  You also have the opportunity to study with students similar to the friends you can make through the GATES Program, but all across Kentucky.  The friends I made through GSP are ones that I have stayed in contact with throughout college.  GATES created an opportunity for me to enjoy learning, and this helped me to excel in school, graduating co-valedictorian of my class along with Courtney Cox, one of my best friends and another GATES alumni.

                Many of the skills I acquired through GATES involvement aided in my decision to pursue architecture at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning.  Although this program was very challenging, I am appreciative of my preparation in GATES that allowed me to be able to succeed in obtaining a Bachelors of Science in Architecture.  Visual art studies, emphasis on presentation, and experience in Adobe Photoshop during GATES helped me to create many design compositions.  I was fortunate to have previously learned these skills, which gave me an advantage over the other first year architecture students who were learning many of these skills for the first time. 

                Art has always been an important part of who I am, and I am excited to spend every day continuing to create art through the design of buildings.  The principles and elements of design that I was taught in the 6th grade are still something that I use every day as an architectural designer.  After graduating from the University of Cincinnati, I am currently working at glaserworks – an architecture and urban design firm in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I am working as part of a team with three other architects to design the new distillery for The Party Source in Newport, Kentucky.  Whether creating the curtain wall layouts for the building elevations, or designing the custom millwork for the bars to be included in the event space of the distillery, I am constantly imploring balance, emphasis, proportion and space in each design composition.  The unfortunate reality is that jobs, particularly in architecture, are difficult for a newly graduated student like me to obtain.  I believe that I have had success in finding jobs at various architecture firms because of involvement in GATES from a young age.  When reviewing my portfolio in interviews, I am proud to still include printmaking pieces I created in high school and discuss the GATES leadership roles I held as a student.  An excellent teacher instilled in me the importance of presentation and the need for properly matted artwork, both evident throughout my portfolio.  I have received positive comments from employers because of these lessons from the GATES Program and they have impacted my professional career. 

                After arriving at college, I began to understand how fortunate I was to have such an amazing and unique education because of the opportunities offered through the GATES Program of Pendleton County.  My approach to learning, application of skills, and academic relationships are better because of GATES, and I would encourage every student to take advantage of the opportunities offered through the GATES Program.   The benefits are limitless and whatever path you may choose, this is a program where your involvement and dedication as a student directly impact your future success.