Making a difference

Published 2:02 pm Sunday, February 7, 2016

Kayleen St. Louis has taken over Cameron Johnson’s position with the United Way of Mower County as project coordinator. Eric Johnson/

Kayleen St. Louis has taken over Cameron Johnson’s position with the United Way of Mower County as project coordinator. Eric Johnson/

Kayleen St. Louis knew she wanted to help with a nonprofit organization, so when a position opened at the United Way of Mower County, she didn’t hesitate.

St. Louis, 28, started Jan. 25 as project coordinator at the United Way.

“I took this position because it fits with my skills, my education and my goals, and it just sounded like some fun,” she said. “I really like the fact that I get to be working with a diverse population and that I get to work with the United Way which does such great things in the community.”

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In her new position, St. Louis will take on projects such as the backpack program, the coat drive, marketing, figuring out different ways to run campaigns and more. She is excited for her new position and the chance to work with and get to know people in the community.

“I’m really excited to get the chance to make a real difference,” she said.

St. Louis was born in Colorado but her family moved to the Burnsville area when she was a baby. She moved back to Colorado in high school and pursued her bachelor’s in English from Colorado State University — Pueblo in Colorado, and her master’s in Arts and Leadership. That led her to the realm of higher education, where she found a love for working with nonprofit organizations. She spent time working with nonprofit organizations in college and loved making a difference, even in the small sphere of the college world. During college, St. Louis also worked a side job with the YWUCA, which gave her experience in domestic violence and counseling.

Growing up, St. Louis and her family didn’t have a lot of income, which meant community funded programs were an important part of where she is today.

“I grew up in one of the sectors that we serve, so very low income, my family didn’t have any education, both went through high school and that’s about it,” she said. ”So I’ve seen first-hand how important programs are, and I would have never made it as far as I did without having those programs that are funded through the community, because I didn’t have the support that some people get when you have all the resources you need.”

One program that was pivotal for her, called Upward Bound in Colorado, helped her make it to college, and she said without it she likely never would have went.

“When you’re low income and your family doesn’t know anything about college, it’s hard,” she said. “It’s hard work to get into college, it’s not like you click a button and say ‘Yes I want in.’ You have to fill out many forms. So Upward Bound was great, they helped us out with that.”

Other programs near to her heart include food shelves and food programs along with programs that care for basic needs. She recalled times when her family didn’t have access to food and when Ramen noodles weren’t even in her budget during school.

“Having access to food pantries and stuff like that [is] very important,” she said.

Although St. Louis is only in her first few weeks on the job, she is looking forward to diving into the United Way’s work.

“I hope to just kind of keep steering us in the right direction, to keep improving on the processes and everything that they’ve already been doing wonderful work with, and help us make a good impact on the community,” St. Louis said.