Kathleen (Kat) Varner, from Denver, North Carolina, graduated in 2019 with a B.S. in career technical education with a workforce leadership and development concentration. Currently, she is the executive director for a non-profit organization called the Fenix in You Foundation, which she established with one of her former students, Jesse Brown.
"Going to Appalachian via their online distance education was an amazing experience for me! Even though this degree was online, I still felt that Mountaineer pride through all the great professors and my fellow online peers! I am so proud to call myself a Mountaineer and sharing my love for App State with students seeking a quality education with an amazing, energetic atmosphere."
Impacting Education in Her Community
Throughout her career in non-profit development and marketing Varner always managed to be involved with the education field by volunteering at her children’s schools. She has made connections with many students and helped them recognize that they too could have a brilliant life after high school. She quickly realized through helping at-risk students that they lived their lives by hiding their true identity or home life from peers.
Varner was driven to bring this silent epidemic of students who cannot find hope or courage to find a path that could bring them happiness and personal success. She chose Appalachian specifically for the workforce education degree so she could work with student populations, with not only career advice but to create long-lasting success initiatives specifically targeted for at-risk youth who have found themselves in trouble with law enforcement, their home life or addictive behaviors.
In order to do this, Varner found that she needed to use her skills she learned from Appalachian as a workforce education graduate and her experience in non-profit development to establish the Fenix in You Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization.
"The Fenix in You Foundation will give young adults who are at-risk the chance to succeed, accompanied by a real motivation for change,” said Varner. “The foundation is developing programs that will challenge a student's belief in who they are and who they want to be.”
“We will support, encourage and help to create a new focus in a way that establishes a firm foundation for success,” she continued. “We will accomplish these goals through seminars, half-day academy, and summer strength initiatives that are aimed at teaching life skills, interpersonal skills, and job skills through workforce education programs."
Kat goes on to say that "I am thankful for the wonderful education I received at Appalachian. My professors helped to prepare me and challenge me to do more. This was a path that I felt called to begin. So many of these students are forgotten after high school or do not even make it to graduation. Establishing the Fenix in You Foundation is a way to give these students hope. It is in its beginning stages, but we are full steam ahead and hope to have a half-day school on the ground and in place by 2021."