Recent grad begins award effort

Submitted photo Jimmy Keller, a Gowanda graduate, is moving ahead with a scholarship plan.

GOWANDA — At 19 years old, Gowanda graduate Jimmy Keller has already operated his own business, Jimmy Keller Design, for four years.

Now that he’s graduated high school and is attending college, Keller has looked for a way to give back. While he has previously given to local charities and awareness programs, Keller was looking for a new avenue to give, and thus came the Jimmy Keller Design Award.

“I wanted to start something new,” Keller said. “My thought was why not a scholarship? I feel that education is a very important part of life and what someone learns is really powerful.”

The word “award” being used over scholarship is an important distinction: It isn’t only eligible to students looking to go to college. As stated in Keller’s description of the scholarship, the $300 that will be awarded is to help any student with an idea to change the world.

“It’s about how your future plans can impact or change the world,” Keller said. “It seems crazy, but simple things can change the world. Whether your future plan is to become a nurse or something like that, that’s what I wanted people to think about is how to change the world. You don’t need to go to college to change the world. It just starts with an idea.”

And Keller will get to help people in their goals beginning this year at Gowanda Central School. His scholarship application passed unanimously through the Gowanda school board, and will thus see its inaugural recipient at the end of this year.

Keller’s main business is chainsaw art and wood sculpting, which he does while attending school at Erie Community College for fine and liberal arts. But the main line of funds for the Award comes from a side project: Christmas wreaths. Keller is able to make wreaths, with help from both the community and Greentrees in Markhams, N.Y.

“I’ve been making wreaths since I was 9 years old,” Keller said. “It grew from there. It’s a combined effort from the wreaths and chainsaw carving and sculpting.”

The award, while approved at Gowanda, is also going to Eden High School, as Keller’s family grew up there, giving him ties to that community as well. Eventually, Keller said he’d like for the Award to be available at even more schools, and would also like to see the amount given increase if that is possible.

“I would like to expand it to other schools as well,” Keller said. “I wanted to start with where I graduated from and where I have my roots. Maybe I’ll increase the amount depending on how everything goes, we’ll see where it goes and where it takes me. It’s just a small step, it’ll grow and expand from there.”

And the point of the award is to be broad. While Keller admits that he originally had an art student in mind when he thought of it, any student is welcome to pitch their idea to change the world, in any format they choose, whether it be essay, video, or artwork.

“It doesn’t take just a nurse to change the world,” Keller said. “There are so many people that can make an impact and I wanted to keep it broad like that.”

The winner of the award will be decided by a committee, including staff members from Gowanda and Eden High Schools, Keller himself, and Keller’s sister, Allyson. Submissions for the Award are due by April 4, and winners will be announced shortly after.

For more information about Jimmy Keller Design, visit https://www.jimmykellerdesign.com/.


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