Senior Stars: Rachel


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Meet Rachel! She is a very patient and thoughtful high school senior. I know these things because she is also the babysitter for my two boys and I've known her and her family for quite a few years. Rachel is also very creative. She plans to pursue a career in the graphic arts. Rachel is also a young woman with a strong faith that guides her thoughts, actions, and is incredibly important to her. That faith is what caused her to trust the Lord and step out to encourage our church to do a mission trip. That trip happened - all because of Rachel! Read on for more on all of these details and to see gorgeous portraits from her recent graduation portrait session!

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For fun:

Rachel loves to listen to music. Her favorites are Vampire Weekend and Taylor Swift. At her session, she told me about a Taylor Swift concert she went to with her mom. They both like the music and its something they can enjoy and do together.

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Interests and Hobbies:

Rachel is athletic and really enjoys being active. She participates in track events and also plays soccer and basketball. Practices, games, and track events take up lots of her evening time but she is such a well-balanced kid when it comes to how she uses her time. 

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Logical & Patient:

Rachel is pretty logical. We chatted about being bargain shoppers on our way to the session and some of their fun clothing finds that previous weekend just for the graduation portraits. I am definitely this way too and "the find" for these kinds of searches is often a thrill.

I've witnessed Rachel with our children quite a lot. She babysat them fairly regularly in the summer so that I could work. Since I work from home, I got to witness firsthand how patient and kind she is with the children. She even had to help with double bee-stings this summer! They get to excited when she comes to watch them and love when my husband and I go out on a date just as much as we do! 

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How Rachel Changed Two Communities:

In the summer of 2016, Rachel went on a mission trip to Mexico organized by a church that her friend attended. She was amazed at the ministry, in shock at the poverty, in love with the families and children, and overwhelmed by God's grace.

Rachel's family attends the same church that I do and after her 2016 mission trip, she asked the pastor if she could do a presentation at church on what she had encountered on the trip. She planned a talk and slideshow at several services last summer. Many people at those services had hearts that were moved from the images and from the program and from the stories. They wanted to participate. This was incredible because although our church has a history of helping the local community, helping individuals and creating programs to help many, we've never taken a mission trip in the 13 years since my husband and I have been members. That shy girl taking a brave step first to do the mission trip and then to stand up and share about it made an incredible difference on our Duncansville church community. Plans to do our own church mission project with the same ministry program began immediately as people were so inspired!

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How Rachel Changed Two Communities (Continued):

The ministry that Rachel worked with on the 2016 trip and our church wanted to also work with for 2017 is Yugo Ministries. They are based out of National City, California. Their slogan is "Come. Build. Change."

Their ministry description says this:

"Yugo ministries is a community of believers from all over the world who are passionate about inviting the church to COME and join us together as we BUILD sustainable CHANGE in Mexico."

After members of our church got excited and planned all year to bring a team of people to Mexico and help in another community, that team of people had fun, saw another culture, saw need, and saw incredible faith. They came home as completely changed people. They often describe it like this. "I went there expecting to change and help a community, but in the end, it was me who was changed." Again and again, this team reflected on how much God had touched their hearts in the project.

Below are two videos made from some time building a home for a family and doing a Vacation Bible School with the children in the church community from our church's participation in June of 2017.

Day 1: Hicks Memorial UMC, Concord June 20

Day 2: Hicks Memorial UMC, Concord June

Two Communities and Many Hearts Changed:

As I sat through the presentations of photographs and stories this summer (2017) from our whole team, tears rushed to my eyes as I considered that it was all only possible because of the steps of faith that Rachel had taken one year prior. Two communities were changed and completely blessed because of her.

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Future Plans:

Rachel attends a small school. Her school doesn't offer very many art courses because of its enrollment-based size and student interest. So, as Rachel explored what she really wants to be and do as an adult and kept coming back to Graphic Design, she really had a lot to think about. How was this possible without a strong background of art experiences? So, she has spent the last month working with me on those details.  Since I have a background in Art Education with a K-12 PA certificate, I know I can help fill in a few gaps and connect her with other people who can help her along as well.

We met with a Graphic Designer in our community a few weeks ago. Her name is Alyssa Barilar and she has her own business. She is also involved with several service and arts organizations in the area and doing fantastic work!

Meeting with Alyssa gave Rachel a chance to find out what the day-to-day of being a graphic artist looked like and gave Rachel an experienced person who could answer her questions. It was fun and productive!

Since that meeting, we are working on creating a portfolio for Rachel and she meets with me weekly to get lessons on Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and lessons on design. She is doing great work and it comes quite naturally to her!

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Rachel and her supportive family have been spending weekends checking out smaller schools in Pennsylvania that offer Graphic Design as a program. Rachel is learning so much and finding out what sort of environment suits her best. 

She had one visit that she returned from and knew quickly that that place wasn't for her. We chatted about how learning that teaches us just as much, maybe more, about ourselves than finding a school we like. It helps her weed-out others that have similar characteristics and focus on schools with qualities she knows she does like. 

Right now, Seton Hill is her favorite. But, she is still searching! 

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What do you hope to accomplish in this world or contribute to it?

Rachel said, "I would love to fulfill my God-given purpose and continue to serve in Mexico every summer so I can show the love of Jesus to as many people as possible."

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Graduation Portraits:

It was such a privilege to take Rachel's graduation portraits. She is so special to our family and I'm glad to get to capture this time in her life for her and her family. These portraits are also some of my favorite recent work

There are times in the life of an artist when we feel discouraged and then waves of time that allow us to feel lifted up. It seems to be the nature of the field and the workflow. I felt so encouraged in this session (and hope that Rachel feels encouraged by the final images too).  Rachel and her mom trusted me and my vision. They allowed me to work without questioning my decisions. When that trust is in place, images will always be better, because they become more honest. When I have that creative freedom, my work will always be at its best. That's why these are some of my favorite portraits I've ever taken - because of familiarity, because of trust, and because of creativity.

Thank you so much!

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Rachel's Favorite Bible Verse:

Romans 8:28

"and we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

I know that Rachel's heart is focused on what the Lord has planned for her. I love that about Rachel. I also see such a bright future for Rachel as a creative and as someone to serve the people of this world in the name of Jesus. 

I'm wishing for the best for you, Rachel! Enjoy this senior year of high-school!

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If you'd like to see a sample of my other posts, check out my previous post titled Introductions. Telling personal stories is an important component of my photographic work!

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