Originally, Kayla Plummer, B.A. ’18, did not want to attend college.
However, her parents insisted that she attend, and so Plummer decided to major in elementary education at IUPUI. “I knew that I wanted to work with and help youth in some capacity. However, I learned that elementary education was not the right path for me,” Plummer said.
It was a meeting with an advisor that changed Plummer’s path.
“She told me that all of my classes had fallen on the path of philanthropy. My first response was ‘what’s that?’ And she said, ‘voluntary action for the public good. You can help people.’ A field that at first had me questioning what it was turned out to be very impactful and important to me. It’s the direction that I was supposed to be on,” she said.
It was in her first class that Plummer saw what a major in philanthropic studies meant. “We read Understanding Philanthropy by Robert Payton and Michael Moody and I remember crying because it was everything I needed,” she explained.
And it didn’t end there. Plummer recalls many classes and professors that engaged her. “Dr. (Catherine) Herrold taught a course called Civic Engagement and how we can be engaged within our society. I really enjoyed that course. I also appreciated Dr. (Julie) Hatcher’s class on Contemporary Approaches to Philanthropy. I learned the most about philanthropy from that class, how we use it now, and how it can be used in the future,” she said.
Plummer also utilizes information from her fund development courses in her current position as development associate at the Center for Leadership Development (CLD). The CLD fosters the advancement of minority youth in Central Indiana and encourages them to become future business and community leaders.
“We provide programming from grades 4-12 and focus on character development and helping them become better people as whole before they go to college,” Plummer said. “When they get to college, they’re in a better position to thrive.”
In her role, Plummer specifically focuses on donor management, grant research and analysis, establishing community partnerships, and data entry.
While her classes contributed to her understanding of philanthropy, Plummer also credits her four (yes, four!) internships with various organizations throughout Indianapolis.
“I interned with the Indianapolis Urban League in a program internship, with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB) in a nonprofit management internship, with Midwest Academy in a fund development internship, and with the Marion County Democratic Party in a civic engagement internship,” she said.
Those experiences gave her the opportunity to see mission-driven work at the ground level: “To be a part of mission-driven work was really cool. For the first time, I was able to see what my future career would look like.”
In addition to those organizations, Plummer also started her own group, Evolve. “It really focuses on spiritual and personal development and helps us think about our purpose and passion for life,” she said.
In addition to all of that, she also worked full-time as a receptionist. As a result, graduation came as a welcome reward for all of Plummer’s hard work: “There was a time when I wondered whether the day would really come. I’m so glad I made it and graduated. It’s a big accomplishment.”
But she isn’t finished yet. “I really am passionate about youth, especially minority youth, and helping them be the best they can be,” Plummer explained.
Therefore, the young woman who did not even envision earning an undergraduate degree is making plans to earn her master’s in urban education. Her experiences at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy helped her get to that point. “I wanted to build skills for myself and put myself in positions to grow professionally, mentally, and spiritually,” she said.
Those skills have brought Plummer success in her current career.
“Kayla has brought a real spirit of learning and inquisitiveness to our team,” said April Ervin, senior manager of development and Plummer’s supervisor. “As an alumna of the Center for Leadership Development, she has a personal understanding of the impact we are seeking to have on the young people we serve. Her personal passion for making a difference in the lives of others and the broader Indianapolis community is truly evident on a daily basis. We are grateful to have her as a valued member of our development team at CLD.”
Plummer added words of voice for future philanthropy students: “If you know that you want to help people, this is the best place for you to be. There are really great professors, other students, and staff members who have the same passion and purpose. They’ll help align you with the right places and plant seeds in your mind of what you may be interested in.
“Through my experiences here, I’ve been very blessed.”
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Fantastic article, Kayla! I’m very proud of the path you have taken to make philanthropy your vocation and calling. The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is amazing.