By bizarre coincidence, Gabrielle Wirth, 24 moved to Myrtle Beach from Clark, N.J., approximately 30 minutes outside New York City, on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I was in elementary school and it was very strange,” she said. “I didn’t understand at all what was going on – and this was the day we had to be out of the house. Traffic was crazy and everyone was scared.”
Wirth attended Socastee High School and later the Academy for the Arts, Science, and Technology as a theater major. And then came Coastal Carolina University, where she majored in psychology and minored in philosophy.
“I started out as a theater major, but it just wasn’t for me,” she said. “I was used to the kind of troupe atmosphere that they have at the Academy, and it was highly competitive. I was more shy and quiet, and it just didn’t match up. I realized that I was interested in the psychology of developing a character, so I thought I’d stick with psychology and minor in philosophy because I ended up taking a philosophy class that I really enjoyed.” She said this was difficult at first, but critical thinking appealed to her and helped to make her a better writer.
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Wirth recently started a new job at Ocean Bay Elementary School, a support staff position.
“I work with one student and I am basically his shadow,” she said. “We do some one-on-one work because he just needs a little more time when it comes to learning the material.” She is able to take him out of his regular class two times a day to help him get a better grasp of subject matter.
This student falls into a gray area because he is too high a learner for special education. “He just needs a little help in the general education class and needs more repetition,” she said, adding that he is 7.
Is he receptive to her help?
“We get along really well and I am very glad that we do. He was out for a week before Christmas break, and I was worried that his behavior problems might resurface – but he came back excited to see me and excited to work with me – and very receptive. We get along very well.”
Wirth said it took her a year to snag an interview with Horry County Schools, but she was hired right after that. “I was nervous because it took so long to get the interview, but I was prepared. They saw that I was passionate about working with children. It worked out very well.”
She worked for a year at Balancing Buddies/Gymnastics, Inc. as assistant teacher in the one-year-old room. “For the second half of the day, I actually drove to Ocean Bay to pick up students for the after school program. It’s interesting that out of all the schools in Horry County, I ended up getting a job there.”
And she is particularly happy about her job as face painter at Over the Moon Productions, a local specialty entertainment company. Wirth tried her hand at face painting in the past, and was interested in ramping up her skills.
She met Over the Moon Productions’ owner Ann Winnard through mutual friends.
“Ann is so creative and energetic, and she took me on immediately. She showed me how to do more stuff, gave me the ability to work with better paints and to really hone my skills.”
The fact that Winnard encouraged her made a big difference. “I was pretty tentative about how good I was in comparison to other people,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to have her in my life – and be able to help her as well.”
Wirth says she and beau Tommy Cassidy hit up the beach on a regular basis, perhaps hanging out or collecting seashells. “Sometimes we will take his foam swords and fight together with them. “It’s fun – and a good way to stay in shape.”
She goes to the gym, but is hoping to get back into yoga.
Her creative pursuits include painting and wire wrapping – making stone or crystal jewelry.
Wirth is also planning on returning to school for her master’s degree – eventually enabling her to work with at-risk youth.
Wirth says she was very fortunate to be adopted by her grandparents, who she now calls her parents.
“They took me out of a really bad situation when I was younger - and since I was given that opportunity, I would like to be able to give back in some way. Hopefully, I will be able to work with at-risk youth and help them cope with their negative situations and give them opportunities to succeed in life like I was given.”