Recent graduate begins reward effort | News, Sports, Jobs


Photo submitted Jimmy Keller, a Gowanda graduate, goes ahead with a scholarship plan.

GOWANDA – At 19, Gowanda graduate Jimmy Keller has already been running his own business, Jimmy Keller Design, for four years.

Now that he’s graduated from high school and is attending college, Keller has been looking for a way to give back. While he has donated to local charities and outreach programs before, Keller was looking for a new avenue to give, and that’s how the Jimmy Keller Design Award came.

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

Word “award” being used rather than a scholarship is an important distinction: it’s not only eligible for students looking to go to college. As noted in Keller’s description of the scholarship, the $ 300 that will be awarded is aimed at helping any student with an idea to change the world.

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

And Keller will be able to help people achieve their goals starting this year at Gowanda Central School. His scholarship application was unanimously adopted by the Gowanda School Board and will see its first recipient at the end of this year.

Keller’s main activity is chainsaw art and woodcarving, which he did while studying at Erie Community College for Fine and Liberal Arts. But the main line of funding for the Prize comes from a side project: Christmas wreaths. Keller is able to make wreaths, with help from the community and Greentrees in Markhams, NY

“I’ve been making wreaths since I was 9,” Keller said. “It grew from there. It is a combined effort of crowns and carving and chainsaw carving.

The award, while approved in Gowanda, also goes to Eden High School, as Keller’s family grew up there, giving him ties to that community as well. Ultimately, Keller said he would like the prize to be available in even more schools and that he would also like the amount awarded to increase if at all possible.

“I would also like to extend it to other schools” Keller said. “I wanted to start where I graduated 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’s going to grow and expand from there.

And the purpose of the reward is to be broad. While Keller admits that he originally had an art student in mind when he thought about it, any student is welcome to pitch their idea for changing the world, in whatever format they choose, be it of an essay, a video or a work of art.

“A nurse is not enough to change the world” Keller said. “There are so many people who can make an impact and I wanted to keep it wide like that. “

The winner of the award will be chosen by a committee comprising of staff from Gowanda and Eden High Schools, Keller himself and Keller’s sister Allyson. Submissions for the prize must be submitted by April 4 and winners will be announced shortly thereafter.

For more information on Jimmy Keller Design, visit

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