Tucked away in the Beck Family Research Center, you can find Kaitlyn Dressel usually working on a new ceramics piece or teaching her students how to wheel throw, while giving them words of encouragement simultaneously. However, what many might not know is the deep passion she has for helping others, especially within her community.
“Ms. Dressel encourages me to be the best I can be and also has good style,” junior Turner Beshears said.
Dressel grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. For her first two years of high school, she attended St. Johns Country Day School but transferred to Clay High School for her final three years. She made her way to Tallahassee when she attended college at Florida State University, studying exercise science her freshman year.
“I had a full ride to FSU in academics and athletics,” Dressel said. “My dad battled cancer when I was growing up so the plan was to be a PT since I would go to all of his appointments with him. I liked the idea of being able to help others.”
During her courses to become a PT, she realized that chemistry wasn’t suited for her, a vital class needed to become a PT. Through this, she eventually returned to her true passion in art by switching her major to Studio Art, while minoring in French and Education.
“I have always had a passion for art. Ever since I was a kid I have been obsessed,” Dressel said. “I always made my siblings participate in photo shoots growing up. I was always painting something (and sometimes getting in trouble for that exact thing), or I was making some kind of craft.”
Dressel works under Maclay’s art department teaching classes such as graphic design, photography, ceramics and more. She is also involved with art outside of Maclay, as she is the manager of SOHO Art Gallery located in Railroad Square.
“My 2D teacher in one of my college courses was an artist in the SOHO Art Gallery, so when I graduated, I applied to be a featured artist, and to my excitement and surprise, I got in,” Dressel said. “I became a member of the gallery and stayed for a few years which eventually led to me being the manager of SOHO. The relations I had with the park, the artists and the community there is how I ended up in this position. It was pretty much given to me and I was excited to take on that role!”
Although art is a big part of Dressel’s life, as many students and faculty know, she is also always finding ways to get involved within her community. She is currently a mentor in the HOPE program. The HOPE program is a one-on-one mentorship for children living in the south-side of Tallahassee. Mentors are there to help with reading, writing, math and other homework assignments. This program happens Monday through Thursday from 5-7pm, and Dressel volunteers every Wednesday.
“I applied to be a mentor for the HOPE program because I love helping others,” Dressel said. “Some of these kids simply need to know someone cares for them. A big part of helping with HOPE is teaching them better coping and life skills that they may not be exposed to at home.”
Dressel is not only a mentor outside of school, but she also leads community groups and book studies. It is evident that she loves to immerse herself in a lot of freelance work. She also works as a photographer for Speedo, NoBull and Roam Cycling.
“I love conversation and learning about others. The process of creation is a vulnerable one, and true vulnerability allows authentic creation,” Dressel said. “I’m always picking up random side jobs such as website building, logos or videography projects. I love all things creative and working with other creatives to make beautiful and fun things. I love the freelance work I get to collaborate in.”
Being involved in the community is very important to Dressel. She encourages students at Maclay to get involved within their communities as well, and that there is importance far beyond earning community service hours just for their resumes or college applications.
“Ms. Dressel has been a fantastic member of our Fine Arts Department,” AP art teacher Sarah Painter said. “She has such a wide breadth of artistic expertise, and a positive attitude that has made working with her an absolute pleasure.”
She believes that helping others and getting involved in the community can inspire; it exposes you to a greater diversity of people, talent and interests. Small acts of service are just as powerful and helpful, even if it’s just for a neighbor. Any small thing can go a long way.
“We should want the place we live to be a hopeful place where love is the root unlike what we see on the news most days; we live in a crazy world at times but you can be the change,” Dressel said. “It has to start here and now. It’s as simple as that. Your perspective and empathy towards others will deepen and inevitably change you. And for the better. Giving back is selfless and the lessons you learn in that pour out and make a greater good in this world. Get involved because I promise you you won’t regret seeing the face of someone’s life you impacted and changed.”