We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristin Calder and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristin, what do you attribute your success to?
I like to say that in my career journey, my passion became my profession. I had already identified literacy as an important issue, which I wanted to dedicate time and resources to help support. I served on the Literacy Coalition board of directors for four years volunteering with a group of dedicated community members and highly accomplished professionals committed to the Coalition’s mission. I was selected to be the second CEO in the organization’s now 32-year-history, and this group has continued to guide and encourage me as I transitioned to the CEO position nearly 8 years ago. An innovative staff, 40 inspiring Literacy AmeriCorps members, hundreds of volunteers and partners working together ensure that the Coalition’s efforts are a success. Everyone is passionate and committed to the cause and mission to improve the quality of lives in our community by promoting and achieving literacy.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
With a broadcast journalism and communications degree, and many years spent working in public relations, much of my professional experience and interest was related to identifying interesting stories and sharing them. Connecting this with my desire to tangibly help people in our community, specifically by acquiring a fundamental skill like being able to read, has been a stimulating and rewarding combination.
It’s exciting to work for an organization which annually impacts the lives of 29,000 adults, adults, children and families, and provides resources to our community including more than 100,000 books each year. My strengths allow me to focus on raising awareness and funds for the great need for literacy programs in our community while putting my nonprofit leadership training into practice through servant leadership guiding our program managers to deliver services which help families achieve literacy skills to be successful in school and in life.
Overseeing a Coalition is unique because we collaborate with partners including schools, libraries, pediatricians, and hospitals, and with funders and other community-based organizations. We provide resources to others working to fight illiteracy and we additionally recruit, train and support hundreds of volunteers each year for not only the Coalition’s work, but to work with our partners and other entities. Without the Literacy Coalition providing critical literacy and reading support, many more students would struggle, and be more likely to drop out and lack job readiness skills. When this happens, they cannot earn a livable wage as adults. The cycle repeats itself as these adults become parents who cannot support their children’s education and another generation suffers with low educational achievement, high rates of poverty and unemployment.
Through extensive outreach and collaboration with a network of community partners, the Literacy Coalition strives to ensure that individuals who need to improve their literacy skills receive the help they need. We operate 11 programs in 169 sites from Jupiter to Boca Raton to Belle Glade. We teach adults with low literacy skills in the workplace and in our family literacy programs. We work with pediatricians to introduce low-income families to the importance of reading with their children. We work with preschool children to prepare them to be school ready. We coordinate 40 Literacy AmeriCorps members who serve as tutors for children and adults and as graduation coaches to aid struggling high school students. We also support and provide resources to literacy programs and initiatives throughout the county.
Our vision is that every adult and child in Palm Beach County will be able to read. It’s motivating to make decisions and take action every day to work toward this, and to share a love of reading and help people gain literacy and job readiness skills.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Palm Beach: drinks, dining and a walk-around the iconic and historic resort, The Breakers, if not staying there. Shopping on Worth Avenue followed by dining at Taboo and enjoying the delicious Taboo Lust dessert, as the restaurant calls it, a wicked variation of coconut cream pie. We would also start one of our mornings at the Palm Beach Par 3 for a fun round of golf with lunch following at Al Fresco, all oceanside. We would take some time to renew and recharge with a visit to Tammy Fender at her holistic spa in West Palm Beach.
Delray Beach: a walk on the Wakodahatchee Wetlands boardwalk to see wildlife, a stroll around the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens and a picnic and late afternoon at Gulf Stream beach.
Throughout Palm Beach County: Wherever we would be out and about, we would enjoy a meal at Duffy’s, where there’s something for everyone, and at Park Avenue BBQ, our favorite barbecue spot.
Miami: an art walk around the Wynnwood Walls, boating or an eco-adventure on Biscayne Bay, an airboat ride in Everglades National Park and stops at the Frost Museum of Science and at Books & Books.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My success can be attributed to many family, friends and mentors. My Mom deserves credit especially for setting the stage for who I am today. I watched her juggle a busy career seamlessly with being an active and involved mother of three. Her love and support propelled me to believe that I can do anything, and be anything. This continues today and now extends to my three children. My husband, Glen, and our children are also a big part of my support system, and greatly influence my desire and attempt to create a good work-life balance.
As my professional resume grew in my 20’s and 30’s, I was simultaneously building a volunteer leadership resume that was just as extensive. This complemented my interest in making a difference in my community while doing the things that I love and in areas in which I excelled. I joined the Junior League of Boca Raton more than 20 years ago and in the years leading up to my service as President in 2007-2008, I participated in extensive non-profit leadership training that influenced my career path. I gained experience in board governance, servant leadership, organizational leadership and nonprofit management while making lifelong friendships with extraordinary women.