OREM -- What started with a pen used by Utah artist James Christensen has turned into $3,000 of scholarship money for future Utah Valley University art students. UVU alumna Julie Pierce started the project Smart Trades For ART Scholarships when she was a student at UVU.

The mother of six graduated in April with a degree in graphic design. While working on her senior capstone project Pierce decided it was important for her to give back, especially after all the help she had received as a student.

"I had received a lot of scholarship help myself, and I wanted a way to give back," Pierce said. "I wouldn't have been able to go back to school if I hadn't gotten scholarships."

Pierce decided to raise money for scholarships and chose a unique way to raise money. She "traded-up," starting with a pen used by Christensen and trading that for a bar of silver worth $200. She then traded the silver for $500 worth of beef, which she then traded for six months of private pottery lessons worth $750. Her final trade was to Sweet Little Rebel Cake and More for $1,500 worth of custom-made cookies and cakes.

"I wanted to start with something meaningful but art-related and thought it would be great to get a pencil or something from a Utah artist," Pierce said. "Lots of people love James Christensen and he was generous enough to donate a pen he has used on sketches."

She said most of the trades were made because people were interested in helping her give back. Pierce also took donated items and sold them using classified ads and Facebook and held an auction to raise money.

Ray Elder was Pierce's adviser for her project. He said the amount of time and effort Pierce put into raising the money is incredible.

"She researched it and got people to donate and bartered," Elder said. "Sometimes on paper it could be deceiving that it wasn't a lot of work but she put a lot of work into this. The sheer tenacity and time she put into it was remarkable."

Elder says Pierce continued her project well after graduation. He also says the money has the potential to make a big impact in the lives of a few students.

"For those that receive these scholarships it will be tremendous. Many students are under a lot of financial strain," Elder said. "We have a lot of needs for scholarship money but we have very, very little to give out."

Pierce has decided that the money will be split into three $1,000 scholarships. Two will be awarded specifically to graphic arts students and one will go to a student in UVU's arts and visual communications program. Pierce also designated that scholarship to go to a non-traditional student like herself. Other aspects like GPA and financial need will be taken into consideration.

Elder says no other student has used a capstone project to give back in the way Pierce has.

"It is a very unique thing. It was the only project where the student was specifically raising money to give to people who will come after them," Elder said. "Julie was a non-traditional student with an awful lot on her plate, but she accomplished so much. She dramatically outperformed her peers who had fewer demands. It is really inspiring to see someone with so much on their plate accomplish so much. If I could bottle that drive and give it to other students I would."

Pierce said she is happy to be able to help future students.

"It is emotional for me. I am absolutely thrilled to be involved and to help someone else," Pierce said. "I don't think the people that helped me can ever know how much help it was and how much it meant to me. That is the whole reason behind doing it for someone else because it means so much to you."

The three scholarships will be distributed to students this fall.