DCALS grad follows her dream in VCOM
As a 10th grader at Farmington High School in Farmington, Minn., Andrea Forte couldn’t find the motivation to hit the books. She felt directionless and graduation seemed too far away to make any sense. That all changed when she enrolled in a program called Graphic Communications at the Dakota County Secondary Technical Center in Rosemount, Minn.
“Andrea was an at-risk student,” said Trina Walter, an instructor in the program, which falls under the umbrella of Minnesota’s Career and Technical Education, or CTE. “She was in a slump and couldn’t find her passion in a traditional high school setting. Once she discovered graphic design, she blossomed and wanted to stay here all the time. She was a very capable, gifted and skilled designer—she just didn’t know it.”
“After my first term at DCALS when I saw that I got credits and A’s in all my classes, I thought, okay, I can do this.”
Walter reported that Forte soon dropped out of Farmington High School and enrolled in the Dakota County Area Learning Center, better known as DCALS, which is located on the Rosemount campus of Dakota County Technical College. Forte delved with singular focus into graphic design and also joined SkillsUSA, attending a number of leadership conferences and competitions.
“SkillsUSA made a world of difference for Andrea,” said Walter, who has taught graphic communications at the DCSTC for 25 years. “She came into our program as a shy and quiet student, but after experiencing SkillsUSA, she developed amazing confidence and leadership skills. She was soon working as an intern in charge of customer jobs in our Graphic Resource Center. She loved her job and was very good at it.”
DCALS gave Forte the chance to study and grow in a flexible learning environment. Through the support and guidance of her teachers, she was able to fully apply her natural intelligence and talent to her newfound love of graphic design.
As a senior, Forte participated in 2009 Print Day at DCTC and took third place among student competitors. “I worked on a 30-page hockey program for Apple Valley High School, an actual paying customer of the Graphic Resource Center,” she said. “It took a few months and was the biggest project I had ever worked on. Trina Walter really encouraged me to enter something in the Print Day contest so I chose the hockey program. We were listening to the person announce the awards and I didn’t realize that my name had been called until somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘I think that’s you.'”
“In graphic design you come up with the answer—and there really isn’t a wrong answer.”
After graduating from DCALS in 2009 (she made her own graduation announcements), Forte enrolled at DCTC, taking full advantage of the college’s Visual Communications department. She left DCALS with nine college credits thanks to articulation agreements and was more than ready to advance her education in the graphic communications field.
“I’m a triple major,” she said, “with a strong interest in advertising. I’m looking to graduate from DCTC with three A.A.S. degrees, one in Graphic Design Technology, one in Multimedia and Web Design and one as a Marketing Design Specialist.”
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Forte serves as an 18-year-old role model for three younger brothers and one baby sister. She is proud of her accomplishments and knows that graphic design has given her the means to blaze an academic trail for her siblings.
“I’m definitely going on to get my four-year degree in graphic design,” she said, noting she is glad that she will also have a solid foundation in Web and marketing. “What I like most about graphic design is that it’s not like history or math, which have one answer and you need to find it. In graphic design you come up with the answer—and there really isn’t a wrong answer.”
Forte enjoys using her own original concepts in her graphic work, but understands that in her field collaboration is typically the way things unfold.
“I know that it’s not going to work this way, but if you could always come up with your own idea that would be awesome,” she said. “But I understand that someone else usually has an idea and you need to help strengthen that idea and make it come to life.”
As for her long-term future, Andrea Forte looks to work in the design field for a while before opening her own business. Not wanting her business to become huge, she is attracted to working on quality-intensive projects such as wedding invitations and event announcements. In the meantime, she’s throwing herself into her studies on a beeline to her future career.
“After my first term at DCALS when I saw that I got credits and A’s in all my classes, I thought, okay, I can do this,” she said. “Once I found graphic design, I knew that it was for me in less than a week—maybe not even that long.”
“Once she discovered graphic design, she blossomed and wanted to stay here all the time. She was a very capable, gifted and skilled designer—she just didn’t know it.”
On the flipside of that equation, VCOM faculty at DCTC are happy to have students as smart and teachable as Andrea Forte.
“Andrea is a thoughtful and creative designer,” said Gwen Partin, an Applied Visual Arts instructor who has engaged Forte in her classroom. “Her work is unique, and she is intelligent and inspired. Considering her level of experience, she shows a mature outlook and understanding of design.”