“Art enable us to find ourselves, and lose ourselves at the same time.” -- Thomas Merton
Celeste Gardner is a Renaissance Woman with big dreams and a big heart, and she is on her way to creating a beautiful life in graphic design.
A volunteer with the homeless, she has been serving at the “Bridge” downtown feeding the lost at the Stewpot. It’s not a one-and-done deal for her; she’s been volunteering there all throughout her high school career.
She’s also volunteered at an acting camp at the Bath House Cultural Center at White Rock Lake for six years, after attending the camp herself while in middle school. And she occasionally serves at the Salvation Army.
Born and raised in Dallas, she has lived in the Eastwood neighborhood, Rowlett, Highland Meadows, and now is back in Eastwood. Her volunteering might be a result of being the oldest of a big family including Lydia and Joseph, 12-year-old twins, four-year-old Kaiya, and stepsisters Allie and Simone.
And when she’s not volunteering or being the Big Sis, she’s reading or writing stories. Her favorite class last year was English, and she loved her teacher, Ms. Dumas, so much that Celeste is currently taking her creative writing class. “I really just love hearing stories, telling stories, and analyzing stories in a way I would have never thought to before,” Celeste explains.
But most people see her as a Math nerd, since she doubled up in math her freshman year and took calculus in her sophomore year—rather unusual for an ‘artist.’ “Ever since I can remember art has always been a part of my life. I have been in plays at the Dallas Children’s Theater, and I have taken art and piano classes for as long as I can remember.” She’d love to meet comedian Jim Carey or actress Winona Ryder, both childhood idols.
Her plan now is to go to college to earn her degree in Graphic Design. She’s looking at applying to UT Austin, NYU, Texas A&M, or UNT Denton. But her dream school is the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. “I’ve always wanted to attend an art school,” Celeste says, “and with graphic design as my ultimate goal, Pratt would be perfect for me!” The school originated in 1887 with programs primarily in engineering, architecture, and fine arts and has a satellite campus in both Manhattan and Utica, NY. Celeste feels heading north to another city would be a fun adventure, preparing her for her ultimate goal of building and owning her own graphic design company.
Celeste has been active in programs at Bishop Lynch High School, where she was on the cheerleading squad freshman and sophomore years and ran cross country her junior year. She was chosen as a school ambassador, to introduce the school to parents and prospective students, and give tours of the expansive campus. She also works part time at Campisi’s Italian restaurant on Mockingbird and she babysits to earn money for college.
Her life appears full and fun, but she admits it wasn’t always that way. In middle school she went through a time when she felt very isolated and she thought she didn’t really have a say or direction in her life. She says looking back, she knows she attended a very good middle school but that “It just wasn’t the right fit for me. The school was centered on academics and while I was involved in art and theater, I still felt creatively stifled.” But she says she’s happy now and encourages other students who feel stuck to hang in there, because life WILL get better.
Moving on to High School was the key for her: the combination of moving to a new school and Celeste getting a better understanding of herself led to her feeling a lot happier and more content than she was.
And now she’s looking ahead five years, when she “hopefully will be receiving my degree in graphic design and possibly some form of architecture.” Then in 10 years, she plans to be creating her own graphic design company in a big city. She’d love to design logos for yoga studios, coffee shops, music companies and any other businesses, maybe even for non-profit agencies that work with the homeless.
Henri Matisse has said, "Creativity takes courage,” and Celeste has it. The sky is the limit for this Renaissance woman in a modern world – Celeste is on her way up: hopefully heading north to college, and then far beyond!
Judy Porter, MBA, is a writer who lives in Dallas and writes stories about local heroes, non-profits and small businesses. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org