Educating for a better future: Bea's Kids president says education is key to breaking poverty cycle

As president of after school tutoring program Bea’s Kids, Kim Leonards has her hands full making sure the day to day operations go smoothly. She’s invested in the children who walks through the organizations doors making sure they have the resources they need to reach their true potential. When she’s not working with the kids, you might find her engrossed in one of her favorite movies.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  

I am originally from Lafayette, Louisiana and moved to Plano, TX in 1999.  I have been involved with Bea’s Kids for many years and became a board member 4 years ago.  I met Bea Salazar, our founder, through another non-profit I was involved in.  We became instant friends.  I have a wonderful husband and two teenagers.  I also have a full time job at CommercialMetals Company.

What does Bea’s Kids do for the community? 

Bea’s Kids has been around for over 26 years.  Started with Bea’s kind heart, we provide after school tutoring support for children in lower economic situations.  Our centers are located in apartment complexes in Carrollton and Farmers Branch.  We provide a hot dinner, educational tutoring and instruction and personal development programs for the children who live in these complexes.  We offer Summer Camp and other programs at no cost to the families we support.

What are your duties as president? 

As president of the organization, I lead the board and operations of the centers.  Although I have much support, we are a working board, so I am involved in day to day operations as well as fundraising, our Christmas program, summer camp development and supporter relations.  It’s a lot of work but when you enter the center and the kids know your name and smile and hug you, it’s all worth it.  I am the “face” of the organization if Bea is not available.  

In your opinion, how does after school tutoring help children in school?

I could write a very long essay on this one.  We have seen our families struggle due to the lack of economic stability and resources. We have statistics that tell us education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty in these families.  Many of our children will be first time college graduates. Just having access to technology is challenging for these children.  Things most of us take for granted, these children do not have.  I want to make sure they can compete at the level of higher income students. It also gives them a safe place to go after school, a meal they may not have at home and someone there to help them both educationally and personally.  

What’s your favorite part about your job? 

Seeing the smiling faces when I walk through the door.  

What are some of your favorite past times? 

Spending time with Bea of course, attending parties our sponsors throw for Bea’s Kids, watching them program robots or be creative in art projects.  Really, just being with them and talking to them on what is on their minds.  

Do you prefer coffee or tea?

Definitely coffee – black and only in the morning.

What’s one challenge you faced in life that made you a stronger person?

Changing careers at 50 years old!  I’ve never been happier. 

What’s your favorite book and why?

I’m more of a movie buff actually.  I do have many books stacked to read that I just don’t seem to get time to do.

What makes you happy? 

Being with my family.  Watching movies.  Seeing the children smiling and having fun!  Puppies make me extremely happy.

What are some things you hope to see happen in the future?

I would like to see Bea’s Kids build a facility and have transportation to/from the apartment complexes so more children can attend our centers.  I hope to see each and every child that makes it through the program go on to college and give back to the less fortunate.  

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