Pressure sends a message

Dayna Wichhart—Staff Writer

Photo credit: Ellie Brouwer

As Ellie Brouwer opened the mailbox, she pulled out a brightly colored postcard littered with short slogans and statistics: her first piece of college mail. A high school sophomore at the time, Dordt University was still three years away. 

More and more letters, promotions, and postcards rolled in. Not thinking much of it, Brouwer tossed the college mail into a shoebox, accumulating it throughout her college decision-making process.  

The shoebox quickly filled and Brouwer realized the stress that accompanied her and other high schoolers’ decisions. The countless letters and emails offered students endless options of where to go and what to do with their future.

“With so many options being thrown at them, they don’t know where to start, and it can be an overwhelming experience.” Brouwer said. 

As the mail piled up, it inspired Brouwer to make an art piece.

Brouwer, now a freshman graphic design major, painted eight letters onto a piece of plywood in her high school art room.

Pressure.

As she used her first-hour independent study class to work on her project, students in the Drawing I class peeked at her progress and commented on how the installation represented the stressfulness of their college decision. 

Then, Brouwer scattered her college mail on the table and glued it onto the plywood. 

At the end of the semester, 300-plus pieces of mail created a colorful collage, representing schools asking for applications and campus visits. 

When Brouwer completed the project, her school’s custodian hung it on the red brick wall in the art hallway. For a year, students, staff, and visitors saw and appreciated Brouwer’s work.

“I do art because it’s fun and cool. I always thought it was pretentious when people said their art had a deeper meaning,” Brouwer said. “This is the first project that I felt there was a big thought or idea behind it.”

Despite the pressure of college decisions, each year, students make their choice by the time they graduate high school. 

At first, Brouwer steered clear of Dordt, given her high school typically sends students there, including her older siblings. Brouwer, wanting to carve out her own path, looked at a number of universities, such as Oregon and Northwestern St. Paul.

Eventually, though, she enrolled at Dordt.

“When the rubber hit the road, you either swallow your pride or go to the place you don’t actually want to go,” Brouwer said.

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