Changing the story one college fair at a time

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Shannon Taggart ’98

Kenneth Holley ’02 visited the Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy this spring to talk with high school students about RIT.

Kenneth Holley’s ah-ha moment came while giving an introductory speech for New York City Toastmaster’s club in 2008.

Holley ’02 (information technology) talked about the importance of community—not just being a part of a community but developing it and supporting it. Audience members told him that the speech inspired them, and Holley knew his mission in life was to motivate others and lead by example.

One way he has done that is by being an undergraduate admissions volunteer for his alma mater. Over the past five years, he has represented RIT at events in the New York City area and in Cincinnati.

“I’m attending college fairs on behalf of RIT where students who look like me have an opportunity to see me, have an opportunity to dream bigger,” he said. “They have an opportunity to connect with a university that can help open up so many doors for them.”

Holley has become somewhat of an expert on opening doors. As a career adviser for Fedcap, a not-for-profit organization in New York City that provides vocational training, he has helped hundreds of teenagers get to the next level through job and leadership workshops. Before that, he worked as a real estate portfolio manager for Sibcy Cline Realtors in Cincinnati and in the information technology field for AXA Equitable and Citigroup in New York. He was named a “Forty Under 40” award winner by the Cincinnati Business Courier in 2011.

Holley got involved in RIT as an alumnus in 2008 after he moved to Cincinnati. He attended an alumni event before a Cincinnati Reds game and before he knew it, he was helping to organize other events, including a college fair at Xavier University. He began representing RIT at other college fairs in the Cincinnati area and in New York after he returned to the city in 2012.

Matt Garver ’99 (applied arts and sciences), assistant director in the Undergraduate Admissions office and coordinator of alumni admissions volunteers, said Holley is one of 715 alumni who volunteered in admissions last year at college fairs, spring receptions and accepted-students events.

Holley not only donates his time, but he has encouraged other alumni to participate, Garver said. In March, for example, he recruited six graduates to accompany him to an accepted-students event in New York City.

“Families love to see alumni at these events,” Garver said. “They can have real conversations with them about their experiences at RIT.”

The conversations are Holley’s favorite part, especially at college fairs. He said he answers the questions he can about RIT (how many sports teams are there, what is RIT known for) and sends them to the admissions staff for more information.

His goal, he said, is to help change the story for high school students, especially those who grew up in the South Bronx.

“Basically you want those after you to be able to do better than you did,” said Holley. “All I’m doing is taking the time and running with it. I know if it wasn’t for those before me, I wouldn’t be able to do the things I am doing right now.”