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EPISD Student Spotlight: Hailey Gerhart, Franklin High

hailey gerhart

(FRANKLIN HIGH SCHOOL -- Jan. 13, 2021) — Franklin senior Hailey Gerhart and her military-connected family arrived in El Paso in the summer of 2019, but in that short time – and despite the challenges of the pandemic – she has found a home for her artistic passion. Through visual storytelling, Hailey also keeps busy through her school’s JROTC program. The transition to Franklin from her previous school in South Korea has been daunting, but rewarding, as the West Side campus is more than 20 times bigger than her school in Asia. Community Engagement sat down virtually with Hailey to get her take on her senior year and what she’s looking forward to doing after the pandemic in this edition of the EPISD Student Spotlight.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: How are you staying motivated and involved in school during the pandemic?

HAILEY GERHART: I struggle with staying motivated. When assignments start to stack up, they seem more menacing than they really are. This is why I try to maintain a comfortable workspace. Sometimes lighting a candle, opening a window, or tuning in to BGMC’s latest jazz stream is all I need to get going. As far as staying involved with school, the best thing to do is participate in every Zoom conference and respond thoughtfully in discussions. When I see other students putting in the effort, it motivates me to do the same.

CE: What advice can you give to succeeding with remote learning?

HG: Even though it seems like we have all the time in the world, it’s best to tackle new assignments as soon as possible. If the work is easy, you get it done quicker! If it’s difficult, then you have time to take breaks and reach out to peers and teachers for help.

CE: What are you doing to make the most of your senior year despite the pandemic?

HG: In the circumstances we’re in, there’s no reason to worry about having a pretty and cookie-cutter senior experience. I’m just taking this year one day and one accomplishment at a time. With this positive mindset, I’ve still been able to thrive and reach senior milestones.

CE: What are your honors and achievements in high school?

HG: With the help of my teachers and friends over the years, I will most likely graduate in the top 10 percent of our class. As an Army JROTC cadet in Daegu, I was recognized for my community service efforts, positive attitude, and specialized work within our battalion. While I did not win the 2019 Profiles in Courage Essay Contest, I was honored to write about Representative Elijah Cummings, who served our country honestly and courageously until his passing in October 2019.

CE: What advice would you give incoming freshmen?

HG: This is going to sound more sentimental than I’m intending, but—freshman, always be thinking. Think about what’s happening in the world around you, don’t ignore it. Think intently about the past, but not obsessively. Think about how other people and their actions make you feel. Have a journal, sketchbook or friend that you can channel these feelings to. Your perspective of the world, your values, and your truths are going to be so important when you have to make big decisions and defend them. These things don’t come overnight, so start thinking now.

CE: Tell us about your passion for art and your dream to attend Drexel University?

HG: Before I could read, I drew. For the majority of my childhood, drawing was how I processed life and responded to the world around me. The characters I created and stories I wrote bore inspiration from video games, animated features, and graphic novels. Naturally, entertainment art became my career of interest. Today, that field is not only an interest, but an ambition I’m going to strive for. Whether it is at an acclaimed animation studio or a small indie game group, I want to be where my passion for visual storytelling will thrive. Drexel University, being at the heart of the richly artistic and progressive Philadelphia, is where I want to begin that journey.

CE: What do you plan to study?

HG: Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is best known for students’ achievements in fashion, game development, and visual effects. After speaking with and seeing the work of current Westphal students, I am confident that this is where I want to develop my creative vision. A bachelor’s in Animation & Visual effects will not only prepare me for a career in that field, but it will also build me up for positions as a character designer, 3D modeler or a concept artist … not to mention the range of industries that apply animation, such as game development, cinematic effects, cartoons, and even advertising.

CE: What has your experience been like at Franklin as a military student?

HG: Franklin is a ginormous school compared to my high school in Daegu. To put it in perspective, Franklin’s senior class alone is 24 times larger than Daegu’s graduating class. Being at such a large school was daunting, as I often felt small and insignificant. It feels good to say that Franklin is also full of welcoming, funny, and interesting people. The love, acceptance, and support my friends gave me made that first year a whole lot easier.

CE: What is the first thing you plan to do when the pandemic is over?

HG: When the pandemic ends and I know I’m healthy, I want to visit my parents, grandparents and siblings up North. It has been too long since I’ve been in their company, and I can’t wait to see how the pandemic has changed our perspectives and strengthened our bonds. While I’m up there, a visit to Drexel’s campus won’t hurt!

Interview by Reneé de Santos