Leaders of the future: Cassandra Kuczmanski

Cassandra (Cassie) Kuczmanski

Cassandra (Cassie) Kuczmanski has been named the May winner in the Next Generation Leadership program, sponsored by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and the Columbus Young Professionals group. One young professional from the Columbus community is chosen each month of 2016 in the areas of life, community and work as someone who exemplifies leadership skills. Kuczmanski was nominated in the “community” category. The Republic is introducing the winners each month through this column.

Name: Cassandra (Cassie) Kuczmanski

Age: 25

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City of residence: Columbus

Family: Ken and Joyce Kuczmanski in Fort Wayne and sister, Melissa Kuczmanski in Plainfield

Education: Homestead High School, Class of 2009, and Purdue University, Class of 2013, B.S. in Accounting and Management, with Concentrations in Finance and International Business

Your job: I work at Cummins as an Intercompany Analyst focusing on globally rolling out the intercompany accounting module of our updated financial system.

How many years have you lived in Columbus?

Three years in August.

What are your activities and interests in Columbus?

I frequently say that I like to keep busy and hate being bored, so I keep most of my time filled with being involved in the community, spending time with my family, friends and Labrador, Cora, “DIY” projects with my home, and occasionally bring baked goods into the office. I’m also on a mission to try every locally-owned restaurant in the county, and I’ve done a fair job so far.

The Columbus Young Professionals say you were nominated in the community category. Give us some examples of ways you lead in the Columbus community through your work and activities.

Essentially, I help lead the Columbus community through my volunteer activities. I try to help children through tutoring them in math and assisting in the iGrad program while I try to help adults in our community through assisting them with their tax returns with programs like VITA. VITA is Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, which is designed to promote and support free tax preparation service for the underserved. Through Just Friends, I have also found a meaningful way to impact the lives of our older citizens in a positive way. When I see an opportunity to help improve someone’s life, I can’t keep from wanting to be involved. Through providing help to our individual citizens, we improve our whole community.

One of the reasons you were nominated is for your work on the Just Friends Board of Directors. Why is that role important to you?

The Just Friends Adult Day Services program is such a great benefit to our area. With there already being 65 million people in the United States who are retired, and another 10,000 who turn 65-years-old daily, there is a need in the community for a place where loved ones can go and be active and socialize. With retirees watching an average of 49 hours of television a week, there needs to be an alternative within the community where those who should not be home alone can go. Being the treasurer of the not-for-profit gives me a significant amount of pride and I hope to help the program continue in achieving its goals.

Among your many volunteer activities is volunteering for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and Tax-Aide for the elderly. Why were you attracted to those volunteer opportunities?

Overall, the programs focus on segments in our society who are two of most vulnerable — the elderly and the disadvantaged. With a process that can be so complicated, frustrating and frightening, our clients are often times taken advantage of in their time of need. While at Purdue, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program was well-developed, and I became involved through my tax class. The West Lafayette area gives so much to the campus, and I felt the need to give a little back. When I moved to Columbus, I continued to feel the need to volunteer with the program, as there is just as much of a need here in our community, and I am able to help.

Tell us about your volunteer work through Cummins.

Ultimately, Cummins has given so much to me that I want to give back as much as I can by making the workplace the best it can be. The goal of the Advocates for Change committee that I lead within the Women’s Affinity Group’s is to improve the work environment for all employees, regardless of gender. When I first joined, that message spoke to me, and I am thrilled to be able to lead the group of passionate individuals who are on the team. Working as the iGrad Cummins Liaison team has provided me so much insight into the needs of our eighth through 12th graders in the community as well as the support that volunteers need within the program. While I can only help so many students, if I can better support the Cummins volunteers and the program itself, I will be able to help a significantly larger group of students. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

If you could change Columbus in any way, what would that change be?

More affordable housing, without question.

What do you think shouldn’t change about Columbus, and why?

The opportunities here almost seem endless. Compared to other cities our size, resources in Columbus are so bountiful that if you are truly passionate about enacting change for the better, it can happen.

When you talk about Columbus to those who don’t live here, how do you describe it?

It is the perfect mix of a bigger city and a smaller town; we have multiple resources that are typically reserved for bigger cities, such as nationally ranked architecture, the Columbus Philharmonic, the People’s Trails and ColumBIKE, yet a lot of the niceties of a smaller town, such as the ability to get involved in whatever you are passionate about, being able to get from one side of town to the other in 15 minutes, and (aside from housing), a relatively cheap cost of living.

If someone asked you what they could do to help the community of Columbus, what would you advise them to do?

Figure out whatever they are passionate about and then actively search for a group that is working in the same area. There are so many fantastic groups here in Columbus to volunteer with, no matter where your passion may lie. There are multiple reasons why each and every one of us should give back, both for the community and ourselves. If you can’t find the right organization for you, let me know, and we’ll find it together.