Name: Kassie Mathis
Where were you born and raised?
“I was born and raised in Gadsden.”
What is your occupation?
“I am the director of the Title III Strengthening HBCUs Program on the Valley Street Campus of Gadsden State Community College. Title III is a federally-funded grant program that supports the academic progress of historically black colleges and universities. Title III funds are used to enhance student services, strengthen library services, construct and/or renovate facilities, purchase computers and software, provide instructional resources, facilitate faculty and staff development, and advance academic programs.”
What made you decide to work in your field?
“As a high school student, I participated in Upward Bound at Gadsden State. My mother was in college at that time, but no one close to me had lived on a college campus or gone to college right after high school. In fact, I didn’t have a personal relationship with any college graduates. Upward Bound was a God-send because it provided me with many of the tools I needed to be successful. I went on my first college tour while in the program and it really got me excited about college. Years later when I reflected on my time in the program, it hit me that I would love to help students like myself become successful. When I began working at Gadsden State in 2007, I set a goal to go back to college and get a master’s degree so that I could run a program like Upward Bound. When the Title III position became open, I jumped at the opportunity. The goals of the Title III program are different from Upward Bound but it still allows me to work with students and have a positive impact on the lives of students.”
Tell us about your family and pets.
“I have an amazing son who is the light of my life. He is a senior at Gadsden City High School and plans to attend the University of Alabama in the fall. We don’t have any pets right now, but I might have to get a puppy to fill the empty house once my son leaves for college.”
Describe an average day in your life.
“Busy! I usually drag myself out of bed around 6 a.m. and turn on some music. The music helps me wake up and gets me excited about the day. I dance and sing as I get dressed, then head into the office. Each day at the office is different, but a typical day might begin with checking emails, returning phone calls and discussing any issues with the grant activity directors. Although I always have a to-do list, the day almost never goes as planned. Just the other day, I came in with plans to complete reports but ended up working on the grant budgets, picking paint colors for a renovation project in our carpentry program and giving a television interview on our Youth Empowerment Camp.”
What school or schools have you attended?
“I am a proud graduate of Gadsden High School. I have a bachelor’s degree in Business from Birmingham-Southern College and a master’s in Business Administration from Jacksonville State University.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“I enjoy spending time with my son, family and friends. My family is loud and funny. There’s always a lot of hugging. You can feel the love in the air. When I can be with them, I’m always happy. I love listening to music and singing, although I don’t have any talent. I always tell people that God knew what he was doing when he didn’t give me a beautiful voice. I would never stop singing! I also love to read. It’s like traveling to another world for me. I’m currently reading “A Column of Fire” by Ken Follett.”
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
“As a single mother, my greatest accomplishment is raising such an amazing son. He has a heart for people that makes me proud. He can brighten up any room with his warmth and humor. He is smart, kind and giving. He’s 17 years old but he still hugs and kisses on me all the time. He has never given me one bit of trouble, and I’m grateful to God for blessing my life with him.”
Name the one person that has been the most influential in your life. Why?
“I can’t name just one person because there have been so many people who have had a positive impact on my life. My mother taught me the value of education and discipline. She taught me to believe in myself. She never accepted less than my best, and as a result, I always give my best effort. My aunt is one of the most free-spirited people I know. She taught me how to relax and solve problems instead of worry about them. Whenever I was stressed about something, she would always say, “This too shall pass.” Those simple words always seemed to calm me down. Finally, my best friend taught me how to get things done. She thinks I’m far smarter than I really am. She’s my encourager. If it wasn’t for her, I’m not sure if I would be where I am today.”
To what do you credit your success?
“I credit my success to my faith in God and perseverance. My Type A personality will not let me be content. I’m very ambitious and once I set a goal, I work hard to accomplish it. I wouldn’t call myself brave because I’m afraid of most of the things I try, but there’s a part of me that will fight through the fear and get things done.”
Are you involved in any service organizations?
“I’ve been involved with several service organizations over the years, but I am currently a board member for the Gadsden City Career Tech Advisory Committee and a board member for the Gadsden State Alumni Association.”
What is your favorite thing about this community?
“I love the people. People in Gadsden are always smiling and willing to lend a hand. You don’t get that type of kindness and hospitality in a lot of other places.”
What would you like to see change in the community?
“I would like to see more job opportunity for recent college grads. We have a beautiful city with educated and smart people, but I don’t see as much potential for career growth for our young people as I’d like to see. There’s a lot of conversation about the youth not returning to the area after college. I think more of them would come back if we had more opportunity.”
What are three words that describe you?
“Kind, ambitious and innovative.”
What is something surprising that many do not know about you?
“I love superhero films. I have to watch every superhero film in a movie theatre because I love the sound and excitement of actually being in the theatre. I’m anxiously looking forward to ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’”
What is your favorite quote?
“‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ – Hebrews 11:1. This was the first bible verse I learned, and it has stuck with me all my life. Whenever I falter or worry, I’m reminded that my faith in God will get me through anything.”
What is on your bucket list?
“My bucket list has about 20 items on it but I will share my Top 3: 1) ride on a hot air balloon, 2) eat lots of pasta in Italy, and 3) meet Beyoncé. I don’t know how or when I’m going to meet Beyoncé, but I have faith it’ll happen. I’m going to see her in concert in August. Maybe I will find a way by then.”
If a movie were made about your life, who would you want to play you?
“This is a hard one but I think Queen Latifah would do a good job.”
What advice would you give yourself as a child?
“Don’t be in a rush to grow up and listen to your parents! I know it sounds cliché, but I really wish I had listened to my mother as a child. I remember thinking she didn’t know anything. Now, she is one of the first people I call when I need advice.”
If you would like to nominate someone for the People of Etowah column, email email@example.com or call 256-547-1049.