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Freshman Focus: Jess Karolczak

Jess at piano

February 2017


"Somethings I cannot change, but ‘til I try I'll never know." This is one of Jessica Karolczak's life mottos in addition to a quote from one of her favorite musicals, Wicked. Karolczak is currently a First Year student at St. Ambrose University who is a part of the Theatre Department as a Theatre, Multimedia Journalism major, and Spanish minor.

Karolczak grew up in the small town of Sheldon in Northwest Iowa. Always believing "you are never fully dressed without a smile" (Annie) and that there is "no day but today" (Rent), Karolczak was an adventurous child who loved the outdoors, tried everything (except most foods), and immediately fell in love with music and theatre. As a child, her parents, Todd and Paulette Karolczak, and older brother, Gage, were always there to encourage her and to push her out of her comfort zone as they continue to do today. "My family has always been my inspiration and rock."

Growing up immersed in the arts due to her father being an actor and singer, Karolczak and her brother didn't hesitate to find their love of singing, playing instruments, and acting.

"I was a dancer before I could walk, and I began to sing long before I could talk' (Mama Mia). Also, I must say I was a dramatic child, so it was only natural that I would become an actress someday," Karolczak said.

By age six, Karolczak was in her first play, Annie, as the adorable character of Molly to her own dad's rendition of the iconic Daddy Warbucks. After that, she stayed involved with Community Theatre in Sheldon, Iowa, in addition to doing small plays at her middle school. In seventh grade, Karolczak wrote and performed an individual performance about Ruby Bridges and the integration of schools for National History Day, which won her a trip to the National competition in Washington D.C. The next year, she created another individual performance about the progression of women's rights in the workplace for which she was awarded alternate to the National competition.

However, it wasn't until high school that Karolczak truly realized her passion for creative arts. At Sheldon High School, she decided "now is the time to seize the day" (Newsies), so she kept herself busy with theatre, speech, Spanish Club, choir, band (playing the clarinet and piano), Student Leadership Team, show choir, volleyball, and jazz choir to name a few. Karolczak vividly remembers many high school memories such as speaking at an anti-bullying assembly for her whole school, being in All-State choir, playing Gavroche in Les Misérables, and going to Guatemala with the Spanish Club.

"It was in high school that I truly started to appreciate everything my family made me try, even if loving everything meant no down time. Even outside of school, I had a greater sense of awe at the theatrical productions and concerts my family would see because I learned to value the work behind each performance and to admire others' talents," Karolczak said.

By the end of high school, Karolczak developed a strong passion for making a difference by helping others and making their days brighter. This passion lead her to choose St. Ambrose University because she immediately felt welcomed and encouraged at SAU.

"From the first visit, I noticed the passion and kindness of all the professors and people I met. I came to St. Ambrose knowing I would have people to admire, and the opportunity to find how my talents could contribute to the warmth of SAU," Karolczak stated.

During her first year at St. Ambrose, Karolczak performed in SAU's productions of The Tempest and The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, is currently the Assistant Stage Manager of the upcoming production of The Complete Works of Shakespeare [Abridged], and received fourth place in the theatre competition in Des Moines, KCACTF as a partner to Irene Ryan nominee and graduated senior Jordan McGinnis. She also is in the University chorale, participates in campus ministry, writes for The Buzz and the SAU theatre newsletter, and enjoys exploring Davenport and relaxing with friends. Karolczak is excited to see what the future brings and intends to absorb every moment because, after all, "another day, another destiny" (Les Misérables).

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