The following is part of a Vandaleer series from partner Preservation Alliance of West Virginia. The series focuses on young adults in West Virginia.
My name is Kayla Piechowiak and I am the oldest of three children. I am from Mt. Airy, Maryland, where I attended South Carroll High School. In high school, I was in the choir and the National Honors Society. I also played recreational soccer, and started coaching for my sister’s team. I was a member of the Girl Scouts through high school. I attended Shepherd University to receive my bachelors’ degree. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in History with a concentration in Historic Preservation. I graduated as a McMurran Scholar by nomination of the faculty and received the Henricksson prize for the best senior thesis in my semester. I want to continue my education to get a PHD in History to pursue a career in museum work, and eventually teach public history.
While in school, I participated in many activities that brought me in contact with the public. Not only did I participate in historical activities, I volunteered at the Catholic Campus Ministry. I helped to organize retreats and weekly discussions on interfaith topics. I was the president of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honors society and was involved with the public as much as possible, volunteering for town events, such as the Shepherdstown Civil War Christmas and organizing community symposiums. After my freshmen year, I volunteered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary giving tours of the cathedral. My degree required an internship experience, so I spent my time at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. The museum had a small collections department, so I had the ability to move between object collections and archival ones. While at the museum, I got to see how to organize an archive, because their new archivist was trying to put things in order. I found that I loved researching and debating the value of archival material to the museum’s mission, but I also enjoyed working with the public. After I graduated, I worked more in front of the public. I began to work for a tour company, giving tours of the Baltimore Inner Harbor.
I decided to take a year off, before going to graduate school to try to gain some more experience in different public history fields. I decided to apply for the Shepherdstown Ameri Corp position when my teacher recommended the position to me. Working for Ameri Corp seemed like an excellent way to spend my year off because it offered so many different experiences. Working with the Historic Shepherdstown Commission provides the ability to work in the archives, but also in the museum, and interact with the public. This year I am working on organizing the archives to make it more researchable. Inventorying the archival boxes and creating a searchable spreadsheet before entering the collections into past perfect. In addition to the archives, I work on oral histories to preserve the memory of Shepherdstown. I am also assisting on updating some of the exhibits in the Shepherdstown Museum. The diverse number of experiences will be so helpful in applying to graduate school.
A statewide service initiative, the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program places service members at historic non-profit sites or local government agencies for a one-year period where they complete specific projects aimed at improving historic resources and managing volunteers for special events. The end goal of these projects is community revitalization, with a focus on long-term historic preservation and increased use of historic properties and museum collections.