Kari Steele, '17

Passion for Office Administration leads to dream career

Terra State was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Earning my degree fit my schedule, it fit my family's schedule and it allowed me to grow in a way that I would never have thought was possible. If Terra State was a four-year institution, and I could receive a bachelor's degree, I would go back there in a heartbeat.

Kari Steele is the perfect representation of what it means to persevere and find your inner strength to discover your passion. Regardless of how many obstacles were in her way, she was determined to find a career that she was not only passionate about but would also help support her family.

After graduating with her GED, she experienced hardships from dropping out of a non-accredited college with no credits being able to transfer to losing her first job at Microsoft after a year due to outsourcing. This led her to start considering what she wanted to be when she grows up.

Fast forward, she decides to go back to school, where she enrolls in a college to receive her Associate of Applied, Business Management degree. At the time, she became a dislocated worker, and they paid her to go to school for medical transcription in dictation. She thought this degree would help her receive a good-paying job with long-term stability; however, after dabbling in the medical field, she realized the career field was dying off.

After trying this and it not working out, she decided to be a stay-at-home mom to her five children while her husband worked to support their family. While taking care of her family, she was always trying to better herself, her situation and worked to create new opportunities. In 2010, she started her own business, All in Cheer, LLC, in Tiffin, Ohio, and volunteered with the Tiffin-Seneca United Way. Steele's business was about providing opportunities for all children, no matter their income, to be involved in competitive cheer. However, the economy slowed down, and that ultimately led her to close the business in 2012.

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    DegreeOffice Administration
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    United Way of Seneca County

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    Job Title

    Executive Director

Kari Steele - Executive Director of Seneca County United Way

After her business closed, Steele knew that she would have to go back to school and find a different job. Through all the trial and error she experienced since earning her GED, she learned valuable lessons that taught her a lot about herself and what she wanted. "I discovered through trial and error what was and wasn't a good fit for me. I discovered that the medical field was not the right fit for me because my personality did not mesh well; however, I did find out that I loved volunteering with the United Way and was interested in working at a non-profit to help people in our community" said Steele.

Steele soon enrolled at Terra State to earn her Associate of Applied Business, Executive Office Administration degree in 2014. Going to school part-time, working full-time and being a full-time mother and wife was not easy for her, but she is thankful for the people at Terra State who helped her along the way. "All the professors that I had were very professional and optimistic about students, and that helped tremendously. Each professor I had set the standard higher for me, pushed me and wanted to see all of their students succeed," said Steele.

With her good grades, she joined the honor society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), and was a member of the Student Government Association. Additionally, with the little free time she did have, she enjoyed volunteering with her fellow classmates.

Aside from going to school, Steele also started working full-time as the Office Manager at Tiffin-Seneca United Way. She embraced the position for all it had but realized that the minimum wage salary was not enough to support her family, so she also decided to get her real estate license and started working as a broker through REMAX in Tiffin, Ohio.

Upon graduation from Terra State, Steele graduated with zero college debt. She received scholarships and grants that helped her along the way to afford to go back to school. "Terra State was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Earning my degree fit my schedule, it fit my family's schedule, and it allowed me to grow in a way that I would never have thought was possible," said Steele, "If Terra State was a four-year institution, and I could receive a bachelor's degree, I would go back there in a heartbeat."

"One misconception, many people seem to have about community colleges is that it will be easy and a piece of cake, but it is not. The professors are not going to follow you around with a clipboard telling me my schedule and when things are due, but you actually have to get up every morning, choose to go to class and get your homework done," said Steele. "Going to Terra State was not always simple, but earning my degree at the end made it all worth it."

Steele continued to work for United Way full-time after leaving Terra State, but was soon promoted to being the executive director. She credits Terra State for preparing her for this position. "One of the best things about going to Terra State was being able to apply what I was learning to every day work life at United Way. It was amazing because I could transfer what I learned from a clinical perspective and use it for different projects and tasks that I needed to do. Terra State taught me those tiny little details that no other colleges would teach you or have time to teach you," said Steele.

"For anyone considering going back to school or trying to advance in their career, I highly recommend them to visit and look at all the programs Terra State has to offer. The College is an affordable high-quality education option that will propel you straight into your career," said Steele.