Mentor Spotlight: Kelly Coker | VP of Programs at School on Wheels
Kelly Coker is the VP of Programs at School on Wheels. In this role she strives to enhance programing by providing strategic oversight and implementation.
In her non-profit career, Kelly has worked in many roles, from fundraising to direct service to program management. She previously worked at Central Indiana Youth for Christ as the City Life Director and later transitioned to Chief Operating Officer .
Kelly has a bachelors from Depauw University and a masters degree from IUPUI in Non-Profit Management.
Share a little bit about yourself!
I’m married to my husband, Wes, and we have three kids – Jackson (8), Letty (6) and Nora (4). Our hobbies are currently baseball, horseback riding and gymnastics… because they have to be. But as a family, we enjoy being outside (bike riding, hiking, camping, etc.)! Personally, I love reading and crafting/art.
You have worked in non-profits for a large part of your career! How did you get started in the field?
I did an internship in college in the non-profit sector and fell in love with it. I have varied in my roles, from fundraising to direct service to program management. I have enjoyed each role I have had, but feel like where I am now in program management is really my sweet spot.
Tell us more about your role at School on Wheels as the VP of Programs. What’s the best part about your job?
As the VP of Programs, I provide strategic oversight to the programs we provide for our families and our volunteers. I work to ensure that our current programming is excellent and work to establish new partnerships and strategic changes in our programming. There are a few parts of my job that I love, and the first is seeing the volunteers’ misconceptions change. The volunteers are great people, but even great people can have misconceptions. Breaking down those misconceptions by having two different people in a room is one of the best things because it allows them to see how similar they are. I also love being able to celebrate the kids’ successes.
What role has mentorship played in your development personally or professionally?
I believe that mentorship is critical for every person’s development. Mentoring is not just setting professional goals and reaching them, but investing in the whole person. The reason a place like EDGE Mentoring exists is because there is that gap, and people are not filling it at work. I was lucky to have supervisors who also served as mentors for me – but that is not always the case for some people. Mentorship is about the whole person, not just job performance. When you have a supervisor that is focused both on your job performance and your whole person, I believe that you should consider yourself lucky. I have been blessed with that situation multiple times in my career.
What do you wish you knew when you were just beginning your career?
Don’t get distracted by other people’s expectations – or even your own. I think early in my career, I felt the weight of other people’s expectations and maybe a little disappointment from the expectation of what I thought my life might look like by a certain age. Those expectations kept me focused on what might be next instead of truly learning from and enjoying what I was currently doing. If you live by expectation, you are often missing out on what is happening.
What is one piece of advice would you give to today’s young professionals?
Be a continuous learner! Don't try to impress others with what you already know, impress them with your desire to know more.
School on Wheels’ mission is to provide one-on-one tutoring and educational advocacy for school-aged children impacted by homelessness. Their vision is to equip these children with the educational tools necessary to achieve success in life and break the cycle of homelessness. Interested in volunteering as a tutor for School on Wheels?