Working through College

Rows of greenware line shelves in the studio where Juan Carlos Hernandez sits at the potter's wheel.  He's turning a gray lump of clay into something as beautiful and functional as the other items for sale at the Student Crafts Center.  "I was given a position at the library in the beginning, and then I heard about the ceramic studio and I pursued it."

Hernandez is a first generation American citizen from Decatur, Alabama whose high school teacher told him about Berea College.  He plans to graduate this summer with a political science degree and start law school after a year of volunteer work.  Making pottery is a relaxing hobby for this academically minded senior.

Student Crafts Manager Cassidy Franklin-Dutton is from Ashland, Kentucky and will be a junior this fall.  "I didn't have the money for college at all and I wasn't even planning on going because I knew there was no way I could pay for it."  She also found out from a teacher about the small college in her home state, where since 1855, diverse groups of students have been getting a world-class education at no out-of-pocket cost. Franklin-Dutton can turn broom corn into a piece of Appalachian handiwork in just a few minutes.  She has plans of pursuing an art career and perhaps even teaching children some day.

Esther Stauss answers the phone when customers call in orders from the Berea College Crafts catalog.  She handles customer service issues and coordinates things in the office of the Student Crafts Program.  "It's just been great.  I would have never thought of myself being here, but it was a pleasant surprise and a blessing to be here."  The Cincinnati, Ohio native grew up visiting her older sister on the Berea campus and knew she wanted to get an education, as well. She's majoring in child and family studies and is considering an additional  degree elsewhere in occupational therapy.

100 students in a typical school year do their work study in the crafts program, while hundreds of others work  in a variety of other positions.  A minimum of 10 hours per week of labor is required of all students who attend Berea College in pursuit of an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts.  Student Crafts Program Director Tim Glotzbach says of the students, "Because they work someplace on campus, they're learning to be very skilled craftspeople, and they'll have a wonderful avocation when they graduate, probably rather than a vocation."

Later this week:  more on the rich history of the crafts program, and why students are getting the best education that money cannot buy!

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