Artist and graphic designer Kathy Barnes had always wanted to get a college degree, but it never seemed possible. She hadn’t been able to afford college when she was younger, and as the years went by she kept herself busy making art, working a variety of jobs and taking care of her family.
Barnes raised three kids. She made art and sold it at art fairs for the better part of a decade. She worked in marketing, taught art classes, even drove a school bus. It wasn’t until 2010, when her job was outsourced and she went looking a new one via Michigan Works! at age 60, that college became a realistic option.
“My goal was to go to college and get a degree, but it seemed unattainable,” Barnes, now 68, says today. “I was worried that at my age if I went deep into debt I might not be able to repay it.”
At Michigan Works! Barnes found out that she qualified for grants that would enable her to study as part of an occupational program that could help improve the state’s economy. As someone with a lifelong passion for art, Barnes chose Kellogg Community College’s Graphic Design Program, which allowed her to take fine art classes as part of the curriculum.
Soon she found herself a full-fledged college student, not just taking classes but participating in extracurricular activities as well. She was active in the student Art League, completed service-learning projects and work-study, tutored English and even won Best of Show and Best of Media awards in the College’s Student Art Exhibition.
In 2012, at age 62, Barnes graduated with honors with an Associate in Applied Science in Graphic Design degree and was selected Outstanding Graphic Design Graduate of the year at the College’ annual Awards Banquet.
“I think it was good as a senior to go to college,” Barnes says. “For one thing I really applied myself. I didn’t take it lightly, because I’d had a lifetime of struggle.”
Barnes says she really appreciated KCC’s smaller campus and smaller classes sizes, the fact that parking was free and it was easy to walk between classes. She found the campus beautiful, the students friendly and helpful, and the instructors knowledgeable, easy to understand, approachable and responsive.
“I have so many great memories of times spent at KCC, including the Art League activities and just talking with students,” Barnes says. “The whole experience was wonderful. I learned so much and have been able to apply it and continue learning.”
Barnes found work with a local art company soon after graduation, and uses her KCC education every day. She does a lot of work in Web design, maintains a number of websites and does graphic design projects for various companies on a regular basis. She also continues to make art at her homestead in Sherwood, and enjoys spending time with her three grown children and three young grandchildren
“They’re all doing well and love learning, just like me,” Barnes says. “It’s a lifetime process. There’s no end to learning and growing and developing your skills and talents.”
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