Real Michiana: More than an education
SOUTH BEND, Ind. –
Going back to college to get a degree as an adult can be challenging, but it’s far from the only challenge Kimberly Hesla has overcome. The 26 year old is only months away from earning a Visual Communications degree from Ivy Tech.
During the time it’s taken to finish her courses, Hesla has taken on multiple leadership positions.
"I'm in Honors Society. I'm in Phi Theta Kappa, National Society of Leadership and Success,” she said. “I just got inducted into Kappa Beta Delta. With that I took on chapter officer roles. I work closely with student life as well.”
She hopes through those leadership roles, she can help her fellow students and her community.
The reason behind her motivation isn’t big at all. It’s her five year old son, Orrin. She found out just eight months into his life that he had multiple genetic disorders.
“I was at a factory job, and my son needed me,” she said. “I found out he was disabled. He had multiple conditions. He needed to start going to therapy and doctors, and because I was working full time I couldn’t take time off work.”
She said she knew that point in her life would be a changing point. She also knew any decision she made as a single mother would have an impact on that young life.
“I had a hobby and a passion and I found that in photography, so I wanted to come to school so I could be my own boss,” said Hesla.
“She just handles everything, balances everything so well and with such composure,” said Cheryl King, an advisor and professor at Ivy Tech. “She’s a really impressive young woman. She’s also connected a lot of students together from different groups that wouldn’t normally interact. She’s often bringing additional students to club functions.”
But according to Hesla, that was her goal from the beginning.
“I wanted to do more than just come to college to get an education. I wanted to help other people,” she said.
She calls her son her “biggest inspiration.”
“He has multiple things that are obstacles for him, and I want to show him that no matter what he’s faced with, he can choose. He has a choice. He can make every day a good day or every day a bad day.”
Hesla says she’s had both while pursuing her degree at the college.
“There have been times where I have to choose between paying a bill or paying for gas that week. I always found a way to make it work,” she said. “I just try to think about him and push through those bad days or those difficult circumstances.”
That’s one reason why she’s also drawn to capturing some of the best moments in peoples’ lives.
"Having somebody look at their picture and say ‘Wow, you did this for me, you captured this special moment, you got it the way that I wanted it,’ that’s what makes photography special for me," said Hesla.
Now she’s actively turning a hobby into a future. Soon she will graduate from Ivy Tech with a degree in Visual Communications, but that’s far from the end goal. She also plans to earn a business degree to help her open her own photography studio in Michiana.
“I’m going to be taking South Bend by storm,” said Hesla, who already has a marketing plan for her business. “It’s not going to be just me. I have to take pictures of people, so it’s going to involve the community, it’s going to involve nonprofit organizations, it’s going to involve small local businesses and that’s how I’m going to hit those milestones to get people to know who I am and hopefully with that I can build those connections and be a local staple in the community when it comes to photography.”
Hesla's impact reaches past Ivy Tech University
Hesla is participating in Ivy Tech’s Impact Gala Friday night.
She also helped to organize and create a community garden near Ivy Tech’s campus. It’s still in the works, but multiple beds are already built across the street near the Juvenile Justice Center.
King says Hesla was largely responsible for bringing multiple groups together to work on the project.
“The unity garden will be able to be used by all of the residents in the area, the students, faculty and staff,” said King. “It also provides a platform for JJC students to do some community service that’s required for their activities.”
King says multiple faculty members at Ivy Tech are looking forward to keep up the garden as well.