Next Up Columbus 2024: Kirstin Buckner

Kirstin Buckner
Kirstin Buckner

Photo courtesy of Kirstin Buckner

Interview by Derek Grosso

Name: Kirstin Buckner
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Age: 37
Profession: Director of Mentorship & Community Partnerships-After-School All-Stars Ohio; CEO-Uni5d Outcomes Consulting LLC
Neighborhood: East Columbus
Education: Bachelor’s of Science- Community & Public Health | Certificate in Public & Nonprofit Leadership, The Ohio State University | Completed July 2023 • Professional Trauma and Resilience Certification, Florida State University | Completed March 2022 • Neurosequential Model in Education (NME), Child Trauma Academy | Completed July 2017
Community Involvement: My passion for community engagement is highlighted by my involvement in various organizations like the Columbus Young Professional Club-Co Chair of Community Initiatives, & Columbus & Franklin County Addition Plan, Prevetnion& Education Subcommittee & Harm Reduction Subcommittee. United Way-Project Diversity & Pride Leadership Class of 2024 Cycle.
Motto: “prepare for an opportunity that doesn’t exist yet”
Connect: LinkedIn

Give us a snapshot of your path
In my career journey, I’ve embraced various leadership roles that have taught me the importance of seizing opportunities and being flexible, even in challenging situations. Learning to adapt has led me to new pathways and exciting possibilities, propelling me towards growth and success. The guidance and support of my mentors have played an invaluable role in shaping my career. Their wisdom, encouragement, and perspective have empowered me to navigate obstacles and make informed decisions, accelerating my development and opening doors to opportunities I may not have pursued alone. I’ve also learned the power of pushing past fears of rejection and boldly advocating for what I believe in. Embracing this mindset has shown me that pursuing ambitious ideas can lead to unexpected breakthroughs and advancements in my professional journey. By taking calculated risks and daring to reach for new heights, I’ve experienced the transformative impact of stepping outside my comfort zone. My passion for community was ignited during my early years as a lifeguard in Columbus, where I witnessed firsthand the positive changes that teaching new skills brought to families. This experience highlighted the profound impact of community engagement and inspired me to make a difference through service and leadership.​ I​ have evolved into a committed community leader, driven by a desire to foster strong relationships and effect positive change. Leading initiatives in community health, leadership, and social impact, I strive to create innovative solutions that drive meaningful progress and uplift those around me. In my current role as the Director of Mentorship & Community Partnerships at After-School All-Stars Ohio, I am dedicated to providing trauma-informed practices and support to youth and communities. By spearheading a multi-agency program in Ohio that addresses Adverse Childhood Experiences and advocates for BIPOC youth and families, I aim to break down barriers and create more inclusive and supportive communities for all. Through collaborations with law enforcement and firefighters, I am committed to building a brighter future and making a lasting, positive impact in our society.

What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
My why! It’s driven by a genuine passion for serving others, improving lives, and creating a more equitable and supportive society for all individuals, especially those who are marginalized or in need of assistance. My desire to lead with purpose, compassion, and determination exemplifies a strong sense of social consciousness and a commitment to being a catalyst for positive transformation and empowerment.

It’s also nice to get the phone calls from my colleagues and families I’ve impacted hearing how the work I’ve done and continue to do inspires them to be better, and become better for themselves and those around them.

What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
I am incredibly fortunate to have a strong support system that I rely on for guidance. My sister, entrepreneur Elizabeth Trotman; Franklin County Children & Family First Council’s esteemed Deputy Director and social worker, Eve Fitch; and entrepreneur Dr. Adrienne Kennedy, have had a profound impact on both my personal and professional journey. Elizabeth provides unwavering support and encouragement, while Dr. Kennedy has instilled in me the importance of working purposefully, reminding me to embrace my true self without reservation. She often emphasizes, “Be bold, stand up, you are”THAT GIRL”, and do not dim your light for anyone.” Eve offers invaluable tough love and candid advice, challenging me to reflect on ways to enhance myself and encouraging me to approach situations with careful consideration. She helps me navigate my thoughts and tendencies, advocating for a more thoughtful and deliberate approach. I am deeply grateful for the positive influence and guidance that these individuals have brought into my life.

What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
The activities I enjoy to unwind include spending time with friends – laughter is good for the soul – getting monthly massages and eating good food. I particularly love a good burger, seafood, and queso dip.

What are a few of your favorite local spots in Columbus?
I enjoy local shops & restaurants in Columbus, A few spots I enjoy: are the award-winning restaurant Drunch, Replenish Spa, Upper Cup Cafe, GRND-Co-working space, and Sole Classics.

When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
When I was a child, I aspired to become a nurse. I have always been eager to provide help and service to others. Additionally, I have a strong passion for science and how the brain and body function together. I also have a deep appreciation for community, which ultimately led me to pursue a career in public health.

What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
Currently, the Podcast I enjoy are Myleik Teele’s Podcast; The Next Big Step for Fifth Demenisal Leadership with Ginny Clarke;
Books: All Hope Is Found By Sara Jakes Roberts; Becoming by Michelle Obama; Upon Waking Devotional By Jackie Hill Perry

What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
Being chosen for the Next Up Columbus award is an incredible honor for me. It validates the hard work, dedication, and commitment that I have put into my community and showcases the impact I have been able to make. This award motivates me to continue striving for excellence and continue to be a visual representation of our youth and the community.

If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
The pulse -Columbus is a dynamic city, and I am excited about my role in helping it become a more inclusive and fair community, improving the quality of life for all residents to thrive in the future. If someone were to ask about Columbus, I would highlight our commitment to promoting equality and inclusivity across different groups of people. This is demonstrated by our significant efforts to support young people of color and ensure they have equal access to education, healthcare, and job opportunities in their communities.

The Next Up Columbus Awards highlight emerging leaders who are connectors and ambassadors in central Ohio and who are making a positive impact on the future of Columbus. The Columbus Young Professionals Club would like to offer special thanks to our 2024 co-presenters, Discover Financial, Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Edison Brewing Co. for their support of this year’s awards program. Meet the entire “Class of 2024” »


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