19 Jan

A conversation with Kristy Jelenik, Executive Director, Housatonic Community College Foundation

Kristy Jelenik always knew she wanted to go into public service and be a part of something meaningful. Today she is making a difference in the lives of our students as the executive director of the Housatonic Community College Foundation (HCCF), a post she has held for one and a half years.

Since her time at HCCF, Kristy has made her mark. In the last year alone, she raised more than $585,000 in scholarships, awards and assistance funds to support 1,116 deserving students in need. Her leadership on Fairfield County’s Giving Day strategies alone broke HCCF records, landing the organization among the top 10 fundraisers within 24 hours.

This level of impact comes with great experience, and it is clear that Kristy was preparing for HCCF from her very first job. Working as a development consultant for a fundraising consulting firm in New York City, Kristy provided nonprofit organizations with strategies to build their sustainability and success.

“It was a great training ground. I did things like conducting needs assessments and helping organizations engage their leadership and develop their boards,” said Kristy.

Kristy went on to work with a variety of nonprofits in the social services and education fields, holding positions at the NY Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers and Family Centered Services of Connecticut. Immediately prior to coming to HCC, Kristy served as Vice President of Development for Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.

“In previous jobs my impact was more abstract, and working at HCCF is different than any other position I’ve had. Here, learning about and interacting with students is my favorite part of the job. I know their stories, and the direct impact we’re having on students is pretty rewarding,” said Kristy.

Growing the impact on students is her top goal for HCCF. With a strategic approach, she is working to raise more funds for scholarships and program awards, largely making decisions based on data. To that end, the organization just underwent a strategic planning process, determining its direction, plans and performance measurements.

One way HCCF will be impacting students in the future is with a new initiative: the Equity Project. The program begins this spring term, and with it HCC is elevating its commitment to under-resourced and under-represented students. Financial investments that emphasize access and retention coupled with campus engagement and connection to resources are the keys to the program’s efforts to attract, enroll and retain students.

“The program is strongly informed by FESP and is really about retention for the students that historically perform the worst at HCC. FESP and social injustices brought to light the data on these populations, so we identified their needs and way to keep them,” said Kristy.

Additional initiatives that HCCF supports include STEAMfest, Financial Literacy Programming, VentureLab, FESP, the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center and the Housatonic Museum of Art. Additionally, throughout the pandemic, the foundation has been a nimble resource for students, making it possible for them to persist at HCC through scholarships, emergency funds, technology, and the creation of cost-free training for displaced workers.

“I’m fortunate to have such a strong team at the Foundation. Our impact is truly a team effort,” said Kristy.

Kristy, her husband and two sons live in Fairfield, CT. She’s an active volunteer and enjoys traveling, reading and exercising.

Visit housatonic.edu/foundation/ to learn more about HCCF. Visit housatonic.edu/equity to learn more about the Equity Project or to make a donation.