Starting his Penn State career in 2017, Andrew Storck is a 34-year-old ceramics major from Allentown, Pennsylvania. Storck served in the military from 2005 to 2013, and he uses his passion for ceramics and paying it forward as a self-improvement mechanism and therapeutic process as a veteran.
“My story isn’t very different from a lot of veterans. I think the transition to civilian life is kind of difficult. It is a huge change in lifestyle and culture, and navigating that can sometimes be challenging. For me, I tried to reflect on what I enjoyed most about my time in service, and I realized that that was being a part of something bigger than myself and serving others,” says Storck. The Penn State community can certainly learn from Storck and reflect on what they enjoy the most and implement it into their lives just as he did.
When he isn’t spending 12-14 hours a day in the ceramics studio creating exquisite ceramics, Storck continues to serve others through his new and evolving nonprofit organization. On Storck’s home property, he has an art studio which he plans to use as a community space for transitioning veterans, to offer them a free space to work on art.
“I’ve found (creating ceramics) so beneficial for me, so if I can find even a handful of people that would benefit from that, I would be grateful for that opportunity. It’s an opportunity to give back. It’s a way for me to continue what I enjoyed about serving,” says Storck. Storck’s generous demeanor ensures that his giving-back mentality continues on from serving in the military, to now giving back through his remarkable and inspiring nonprofit.
Storck describes a deep sense of community while in the studio and a support system that holds him accountable to his projects. He has found that the strong community in the military isn’t far from the feeling of community in the studio, and says that with a common goal in mind, you should always try to be there for those within your community. He says it comes back to you full circle. Not only does Storck recognize the strong connections between humans with his experiences in both the military and the studio, Storck is also actively working to create his own sense of community for others through his nonprofit. His service does not stop on the military level.
Storck has observed that many veterans have a hard time finding a sense of community again after the military. It is his hope that his nonprofit can facilitate an open dialogue on the premise that although veterans are no longer actively serving in the military, other types of service work can renew that sense of community.
“People find that the meditative and therapeutic aspects of art are a great way to reflect on their time serving. And it’s very beneficial to many,” says Storck. He is one of these people, and he finds that the ability to get messy with the clay in ceramics is parallel to getting messy while serving in the military. “For me, there is a tactility with the clay. Some of my fondest memories in the military were getting dirty. So, there is an element of that when you are playing with the clay. With the tactility, there is something valuable and forgiving about it. It has a memory,” says Storck.
Storck has also observed that growth as a person can be compared to forming clay in ceramics. “There is a lot to be said about the comparison of what we go through in the human experience, and what we put these ceramic vessels through,” he describes.
As an artist, Storck has found correlations between creating his best work, and being the best person he can be.
The big thing for self-help is realizing you need help. You have to be able to say I need help, and be willing and open to critique, and that’s one of the biggest things with art. You have to be open to realizing that there are flaws and room for improvement. Once you realize that there is room for improvement, then you can take the steps to make it better.
With the goals of going to grad school for ceramics, and growing his nonprofit, Storck’s main aim is to help as many veterans as possible and to continue to give back to the community. Storck recommends to anyone lacking a clear sense of direction like he once did, to dig deep while soul searching, and to try different things and then really listen the response that comes from within.
“A lot of people fall into those career paths just because it’s the easy thing to do,” he says about military veterans, “and they end up struggling because they are so unhappy. Folks need to take the time when they get out [of the military] to really figure out what it is that is going to make them happy, instead of figuring out what’s going to make them money or be easy.” These words of wisdom ring true to both military veterans and anyone transitioning from one stage of life to another.
Storck is a trailblazer in the Penn State community and beyond by communicating to a large audience with his art, creating a dialogue on a large scale about giving back, and providing an outlet for veterans with his nonprofit organization. Storck leads by example on how to improve your life and follow your passions, and for that, he should know that he is making the world a better place.