We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanecia Kerr and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vanecia, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
My name is Vanecia Kerr and I’m originally from New York. However, I have lived in Colorado for 23 years. I moved to Colorado when the company I worked for in midtown Manhattan opened operations in Denver. This was the best move for me! I met my husband in Colorado and we now have a 18-year-old son who recently started college. As a first-generation college graduate, my family instilled in me the importance of a college education. My mother would tell me how many graduations she would attend. Right after kindergarten graduation, she told me that she would attend three more graduations – 8th grade, 12th grade, and then college. It was never optional but rather simply understood that although my parents did not have a bachelor’s degree I would absolutely have one. They believed it would open doors of opportunity and provide career choices that they did not have. They were absolutely right! Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to travel across the country for business purposes supporting the goals of a Fortune 100 company, lead teams in multiple industries, manage assets for clients with assets ranging from $200M – $800M, and ultimately transition to the non-profit sector where I currently serve as the Executive Director of College Track Colorado. I know that these opportunities would not have been available without my college education. Today as I lead College Track Colorado with teams in three locations that serve nearly 500 students, I see myself in them. These students are first-generation college students who see a better life for them and their families. We start working with them in 9th grade and make a promise to be with them for the next 10 years until they reach college graduation. We provide comprehensive personalized support to ensure that they are not only prepared for college but that they have all the tools to ensure success while in college that leads to their bachelor’s degree and beyond. The work I do in the community and with this non-profit organization is not simply about a job. It’s personal to me. It’s my calling and my mission to serve. It’s who I am and what I believe I should do to inspire others to live their dreams.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I graduated from college, I went back home to New York and started looking for a job. I always wanted to work in Manhattan, where everyone looked so professional and well-dressed. I set out on interviews and ultimately landed a sales job in the World Trade Center. I knew that I was good at talking and meeting people, so this was a perfect fit. As I started sales, I soon realized that not only could I talk to people but I could build really strong relationships that led to meeting my sales quota 99% of the time in the three years I was at the company. When I left the company for another role, I again was placed in a position where building relationships with clients was critical to our success. I quickly met all goals and ultimately moved into a role where I was responsible for the top tier clients with the largest assets of $200M-$800M. This was a lot of responsibility, but I learned that I was good at it and ultimately moved into a role where I was managing and training junior level staff. I did this until I realized that I wanted to do something with my master’s degree in Public Administration. This Fortune 100 company was starting a Community Relations and Corporate Citizenship area and I was identified as a leader who could help start this new division to support corporate philanthropy. After starting this area with my team and building quite a reputation for success, it was time to transition to the non-profit sector. I made a conscious decision to leave the corporate sector and ultimately landed the position where I am today. My career has been very rewarding and also challenging. Throughout the years, I have been in roles that were new and innovative. It required vision and creativity to support the organization and achieve what hasn’t been done before. However, this is the type of work that I love. I recognize that I now have a reputation for turning around stagnant organizations and creating innovative solutions that generate results. However, I didn’t have anyone in my family who did this type of work. I had no one who I could go to early on to help guide me. I had to learn that mentors are critical, and I needed to ask for help when I needed it. I now speak to any young leader who reaches out to me. I never turn down an emerging leader who wants guidance. I know what it feels like to not know where to turn and so I always have an open door so the next generation can learn from the previous generation. This is how we grow as a society and I believe in being a mentor to others as so many have been a mentor to me.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love Colorado! I would take her to Red Rocks because it is just so beautiful with panoramic views. We would absolutely have to experience downtown Denver and go near Union Station and the Capitol. We would also need to go on the Coors Brewery Tour in Golden and possibly a drive to Vail. Some of my favorite restaurants are La Loma Mexican restaurant and the Wine Experience, which is a cute little restaurant in Southlands in Aurora. I like to support small businesses and independent restaurants. Naturally, we can’t forget a tour of Celestial Seasonings in Boulder because the tea is awesome!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to my late parents, Margaret N. Bell and Amos Bell. They were always my champions and unfortunately did not live long enough to see all that I would accomplish because of their guidance and advocacy. However, there is no doubt in my mind that they had a vision and would tell me that each generation should do more than the last generation. They each received a credential above a high school diploma that provided a good life for our family. The certificates they received gave them a trade and a career. It just didn’t give them the mobility they wanted to move up in their career. However, they wanted something very different for me… opportunity and choice. They deserve all the credit for believing in me and giving me the confidence that I could do anything.