Creativity is Her Calling
After Years of Supporting Herself Independently, Alumna Earns Associate Degree in Visual Communications.
Imagine working two-to-three jobs to survive without any family support and waiting for an opportunity to advance your career and educational experience. This was the reality for Highline College alumna Jenn Ngeth.
For over five years, Ngeth had to put her education on hold while she worked as a barista to support herself.
She initially attended Highline College when she was 16 years old as a Running Start student to obtain her Associate of Arts degree. However, she couldn’t complete her degree in time and had to make the hard choice of delaying college so she could support herself independently.
As time went on, it became increasingly difficult to bear her living expenses in SeaTac.
“I wanted to improve my circumstances and further my opportunities — school being the gateway,” the 27-year-old said.
When the chance came for her to return to school, she accepted the challenge immediately. Having already accrued Highline College credits, the decision on which school to attend was easy for Ngeth. She returned to Highline College to pursue what was then called an associate degree in visual communications. The degree has since changed its name to an associate degree in graphic design. During the pandemic, Ngeth applied for financial aid and was back on track to continue her educational journey. She said she was determined because this time, she “set [her] eyes on getting that degree.”
In the beginning, Ngeth planned to pursue a degree in communications. After taking a creative writing class she was heavily encouraged by her instructor, Susan Rich, to join Highline’s literary arts journal “Arcturus” and the National Poetry Committee. As a result, she found her passion for creative writing and design. She even won first place in Highline’s 10th Annual Student Poetry Contest for her poem titled “Self Portrait as Incense During Worship” back in 2022.
Ngeth’s interest in creative outlets, such as writing and graphic design, continued to grow. When she worked with a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in integrated design, a four-year degree program at Highline College, she learned that she “enjoyed the fusion of technicality and creativity [she] was able to do on a regular basis.” She also had the opportunity to intern at Highline’s Print Services where she learned how to design, print, and use the equipment and gained valuable skills in the design industry. These experiences and learning opportunities solidified her “vision of a possible career in graphic design,” Ngeth revealed.
Despite her desire to enter into this creative field, there were many times when she experienced feelings of “imposter syndrome,” the psychological phenomenon where one undervalues their skills and abilities, which can cause someone to miss out on important opportunities. Thanks to the encouragement of her advisors and instructors, she gained the confidence to take on new challenges.
“If I hadn’t allowed myself to get comfortable in unfamiliar waters, I never would’ve unearthed my fullest potential,” Ngeth admitted. “I’ve developed a sense of confidence in my poetry and academic achievements.”
She might’ve originally chosen Highline because of its affordable tuition and her previously-earned credits, but Ngeth stayed because of the people. The support she received from Highline College’s financial aid resources allowed her to continue her education with the help of advisors and instructors, which left “life-changing impressions” on her.
“Highline has provided a space where I can earn my education while developing and exploring my skills,” Ngeth said. “This’ll prepare me for working in the real world while gaining advice from instructors who’ve been in the field.“
So, what’s next?
Ngeth graduated in Spring 2023 and has big dreams of becoming a graphic designer. She hopes to “somehow blend art with helping people,” her ultimate career, either by venturing into the “art world” or doing humanitarian work with the United Nations.
She hopes to help people by setting an example.
“As someone who’s only now really embracing my creativity, I wish I had been encouraged while I was younger versus having self-doubt,” Ngeth said. “I feel I’d have discovered my talents sooner if my upbringing had valued them. That’s why I’d love to help the younger generation see art as a way to explore themselves and how they interact with the world while finding joy in creating.”
Ngeth offers this final piece of advice, “don’t be afraid to ask questions, [ask] for help, or accept opportunities that are presented to you,” she said.