A South Effingham High School alumna is designing cars this summer with General Motors using the skills she began learning in high school.
Jonelly Munoz graduated from SEHS in 2004. She is currently attending the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Munoz became interested in graphic design when she had her first design class. Her teacher and mentor was Craig Owens, the design teacher at SEHS.
Owens said Munoz was one of the most talented graphic design students he has had. He said she was a good student with a natural gift for graphics.
Munoz said she didn’t plan to design cars.
“I don’t know anything about cars,” she said.
Munoz said she had been preparing for an interview to intern with Target.
“I received an invitation through SCAD to go down to interview with Target,” she said. “It was fun. From November to April I researched, I studied, I got my resume together.”
Three weeks before her interview, she was in class and her professor was out sick. The head of the department filled in and asked if she would go interview with GM. The company had made last minute plans to come to SCAD to interview students.
“I thought it will be good practice for Target,” Munoz said.
The interview went very well, she said.
“Then I went to interview with Target and they turned me down flat,” she said.
They told her she was too polished for them.
A few weeks later she received an e-mail telling her she had been accepted to the internship program and was one of only two graphic designers in the nation chosen.
There are six teams, each with a designer, an engineer and a color/trim person. Each team will design a car and the two graphic designers are split between the six teams.
Munoz will work with three teams to design six cars and present the designs to the board of directors with the teams at the end of the summer.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of working with professionals,” she said.
Munoz said she is excited to make a great product and to go to Detroit.
“It will be exciting to see three cars when I’m driving down the street and to say ‘I designed that,’” she said.
Munoz said her professional goal is to work with large corporations.
“I see myself in conceptual design doing art direction,” she said. “I’m really interested in corporate identity, and brand engineering. I do want to work on a large scale.”
Although she wants to work for large corporations, Munoz said she wants to give back to the community.
“Eventually I do want to teach,” Munoz said. “Mr. Craig Owens was in the industry for a number of years and now he’s back teaching at a high school level.”
In addition to developing her graphic design skills, Munoz also participated in a number of school activities that helped build her character, including the yearbook and the marching band.
“Marching band taught me to work as a team,” she said.
Band also taught her about leadership and required her to do interviews and tryouts. She also did martial arts while she was growing up, which helped to teach her discipline.
She said those skills helped her when she went to college. She said it is a time to find a place.
“I wanted my place to be ahead of the pack as a leader,” Munoz said.
Munoz started at Armstrong Atlantic State University and spent a “very unhappy” year there, she said.
She said it is a good academic school, but she was creatively drained.
“I saw the chair of the art department,” she said. “I sat down in his office and I looked at him and said, ‘If I graduate from here will I get a job?’ He said, ‘no.’ He said, ‘you’re going to be a starving artist.’
“I told him I wanted to do graphic design and I have these big aspirations. He told me, ‘You need to go to SCAD.’ At that point in time, I decided I was going to go to SCAD.”
Munoz transferred to Georgia Southern over the summer to get as many credits as she could while on the HOPE Scholarship. She started at SCAD the fall of her sophomore year.
“I really wanted to go places, and I knew SCAD would help me get there,” she said.
She knew the school would give her the skills, knowledge, training and opportunity to achieve her goals.
“I felt that I could be myself, and that people here understood me, because they’re just as crazy and passionate about design as I am,” Munoz said.
She said she has learned not only from her professors, but from other students as well.
She wants to encourage students in Effingham to follow through with their goals.
Munoz said that sometimes those may change just as she did not plan to go to GM, but her preparation to go into one area gave her an opportunity to go into an area she wasn’t looking into.
“You can do it,” Munoz said. “If you want to design cars, if you want to do illustration, you can.”