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Kathleen Kopija-Erickson Profile Story

Kenzie Defoney, Staff Writer

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Holding on to what you know, and also knowing that you may have to let it go is the hardest thing someone has to do. Kathleen Kopija-Erickson has had to experience this fate her sophomore year at Geneva High School when she found out she had suffered a brain injury.

“I have what is called, vestibular nerve damage, so I have double vision, a constant headache, short term memory loss, and on occasion from my temple to my hands I have times where I can’t feel them… I’ve had a lot of things happen,” said Kathleen.

Kathleen explains that she’s had multiple hits to the head causing her nerve damage.

“The first hit was actually in gym class. We were playing this volleyball game and I got hit in the head with the ball and the next day I tried standing up and got dizzy. The worst was however when I avoided a car accident. I was on route 31 driving and someone was about to cut into my lane and hit me so I turned right… and from the turn right I hit my head on my car window and from breaking I hit my head on the steering wheel,” said Kathleen.

When she had talked with her neurologist, he advised her that she take it easy for a while.

“I had this dramatic soap opera moment with my neurologist where I wasn’t sure how this was going to affect my life like am I ever going to see normally and his response to all of it was that it could be a couple years but I wanted to go to college for art. How successful can I be if have double vision? Hearing I might have to stop that for awhile made me want to do it more”

Kathleen, now a junior explains how she still has day to day troubles, but she still tries to attend the classes she loves.

“I’ve gotten awards since elementary school for my artwork and have had my art hung up in city hall twice. Thinking I had to stop made me want to do more and now here I am in advanced art classes and in digital photography. I hope to next year continue with AP art and finish off the rest of the photo classes,” said Kathleen.

Kathleen’s favorite medium (type of art) to create is still-life shading.

“I like pencil drawing because with my head and everything that’s the easiest for me… I like the shading because my color perception is off a little because if I were to paint I would not know how red the red that I am painting with is. That’s the same with any color” said Kathleen.

Besides her art career, Kathleen also discovered that she was not able to enlist.

One of Kathleen’s pencil sketches.

“If I didn’t have this brain injury, I would have enlisted in the Army. I’ve gone to camps and they have told me I most likely wouldn’t make it,” said Kathleen.

A constant battle in Kathleen’s brain prevents her from ever being able to see combat at war, however she decided to channel her frustration by ignoring her neurologist’s advice and continuing with her art to the best of her ability.

“Art has always been a therapeutic outlet for me, so how can I be successful in life without a way to relieve my stress?” said Kathleen.

She continues to create her artwork and is also trying to help direct a project for future art students. Based on the recent Malvina Hoffman project that students had worked on last year, Kathleen hopes to try to recreate this and make it an annual endeavor for students to add on to.

Pencil sketching

Kathleen said, “I think it would be very cool to do a different artist every year and at the end it [library] would start to look like an art museum. In 10 years we could have different artist all around us.”

Instead of having the movie and book posters lining the back wall of the library, Kathleen is hoping to put the artwork done by future students up there.

“I’m hoping  that by next year we can get this going and have a project up by then, but with the switching of art teachers in the middle of the year it is hard to determine whether this will go into effect or not,” said Kathleen.

Despite the uncertainty she has gotten one of the high school’s librarians to support her idea along with the founder of our Rediscovering Malvina project.

“The woman who was in charge of Malvina, Mrs. Mary Lu O’ Halloran, was at the opening and Mrs. Grubaugh both were excited to hear my idea and were the ones who encouraged me to go to Mr. Rogers with my idea. The librarian even emailed Mr. Rogers and told him he should come down so we may explain my idea to him. She really helped get the ball rolling,” said Kathleen.

Mrs. Yingst, the new art teacher, also encourages Kathleen to pursue this and consider it a way of her leaving her own legacy next year at GHS.

Next year, Kathleen will not only be working on persuading the new art teacher to help her achieve her dream of replacing the library posters with student art, but also on figuring out a career.

“I’m focusing on going to just a four year school or university… I have looked at Chicago’s Art Institute, and I enjoyed it. I have so many things like I am also into psychology because of what has happened to me. The brain has become fascinating to me. I love the idea of selling artwork as a side job. I have so many more options than I thought I had when I first got notified about my injury and I have some time before I have to figure it all out thankfully,” said Kathleen.

Despite her various options, art will always remain important to Kathleen.

“I’m not a good singer and I’m not really athletic, so art was kinda my thing and thinking that I might have to stop for a while? No way I don’t want to do that. I don’t think I could,” said Kathleen.

 

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Kathleen Kopija-Erickson Profile Story