“For a long time, I thought that survival was the best that I could hope for.”
That’s what Justyne Kosinski ’19, a Visionary Woman scholar, once felt after being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Now, she feels that what she has achieved has come because of her diagnosis.
Kosinski, who is majoring in Animation & Game Arts, spent a month last summer teaching young people the basics of animation and game design back home in Cresco, Pa., a small town in the Pocono mountains.
“Dad and I always talked about how there is so little for teens and young adults to do in my hometown,” she said. “I was thinking about what I could do to help students have something to do over the summer.”
Kosinski received the Tiffany & Co. Leadership Fellowship 2017, and used it to create a free four-session animation and game design program for children at the Barrett Paradise Friendly Library in Cresco, where she once served on the teen advisory board. Ten students between the ages of 12 and 18 signed up for the afternoon sessions, a first-of-its-kind class for the library.
“One of the reasons I went to do this is because I want to work in educational media, especially regarding teens and young adults,” Kosinski said. “I wanted to really get to know people of that age and see what their concerns were, and what they really need to see and hear from the media that surrounded them.” She also wanted to provide an experience many children wouldn’t be able to afford.
LEARNING: A TWO-WAY STREET
Leading a class was a big step for Justyne, who had to withdraw from Kutztown University a few years ago because of anxiety that was misdiagnosed. After an ill-fated stint in retail, she signed up for classes at Northampton Community College.
“I knew that I was anxious, but I was able to focus on how to weaponize that and turn that into a way to do well in classes,” she said. She studied Fine Arts at NCC, then transferred to Moore.
Kosinski’s young students at the library learned scriptwriting, character design, storyboarding and animating. And she learned from them. She showed the students a choose-your-own-adventure game that a Moore classmate had written. One of the options led to a young woman in the story marrying another young woman. Kosinski, who is gay, was worried about how the students, and their parents, would react to such a story line.
“One of the girls in the back of the class went wild,” Kosinski said. “She was so excited about it. It was kind of indicative that she really didn’t see much of that in stories that she read.” Kosinski said from this, she learned that she wanted to make respectful and informed representation in her own work.
A second big takeaway was finding out how afraid the students were to show her their work, fearing it wasn’t good enough.
“I told them being bad at something is the first step to being good at something,” she said. “I watch a lot of cartoons – you rarely see a character failing without there being a huge punishment. I think that affects how kids in the real world react. I’m of a mindset that the media we surround ourselves with teaches us to be the people that we are.”
Her experience at the Barrett Paradise Friendly Library has led to another exciting opportunity for Kosinski. She was awarded the Sis Grenald International Travel Fellowship at the 2018 Honors Convocation April 6, and she will serve as the Free Library of Philadelphia’s first summer arts intern, teaching classes to children for six weeks at three library branches.