Published March 1, 2021 at 10:26am.
Story by Parker Johnson. Photos courtesy of Project Transformation North Texas.
The team at Project Transformation knows that real relationships and real trust make a difference in every area of a student’s life. Through after-school and summer programs, Project Transformation creates a safe and supportive environment where kids of all ages can engage with strong role models and develop their literacy skills. With the help and guidance provided by Project Transformation North Texas kids are now better equipped to tackle the challenges they are facing now, and the obstacles they will face tomorrow.
Late last year, the Project Transformation North Texas board decided to bring in Kirsten Brandt James as the newest Executive Director for the North Texas chapter. Kirsten has an extensive background in education and nonprofit management. Stepping into this new role, she hopes to use these skills to continue to provide the best learning opportunities for the kids of North Texas.
Kirsten has spent her entire life serving those in need. Born in North Dallas, Kirsten attended Hillcrest High School. After graduating from high school, Kirsten attended Austin College in Sherman, Texas, where she would receive her bachelor’s in English and French. Kirsten would leave Austin College to receive her master’s in English literature from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Growing up in a tight-knit family, Kirsten learned the values of serving your community and the importance of fellowship. “I was part of a blended family. We were kind of like the Brady Bunch,” she says. “Altogether, there were six kids living in our house, almost three from each side. My mother was definitely a big volunteer, both with Girl Scouts and then with our church, Northaven United Methodist Church. Our church is what brought us together as a family.”
While Kirsten continued to explore community service opportunities while attending school at Austin College, she had other plans for her professional life.
“I went to school at Austin College, which is a small liberal arts college out in Sherman,” Kirsten explains. “The school had a great emphasis on student leadership and on being part of a community. There were so many opportunities at a smaller campus to give back to the community. My degree in college was English and French, and then I got a master’s in English literature. I thought I was going to be a professor and teach.”
After returning to Dallas from graduate school, Kirsten was introduced to the world of nonprofits and never looked back. “I had done theatre throughout college, so I started working at the Dallas Theatre Center,” Kirsten says. “I just started out doing the mail and answering phones, and then they found out I had degrees and could write. This was before there were a lot of degrees in nonprofit management. Having a liberal arts degree, knowing how to write and put ideas together was just perfect for nonprofit management. So that is how I first got involved in nonprofit management.”
For the next two and half decades, Kirsten would use her expertise and passion for community outreach to help grow nonprofits all over the country. After helping grow such organizations as Junior Players and 29 Acres, Kirsten found her next opportunity with Project Transformation.
“I have known about Project Transformation since it started because one of the founders went to my church at North Haven United Methodist. Because I was so busy in the summer with Junior Players, I was never able to volunteer. So when the job was available, it was just a great opportunity to work with kids and young adults as well as being part of a faith organization.” The Project Transformation model partners with college-aged students who want to serve and also local churches in underserved neighborhoods to meet educational and social needs for children who are full of possibility.
On October 19, 2020, Kirsten Brandt James started her new role as the Executive Director of Project Transformation North Texas. She is the fifth person to fill this role since the founding of the nonprofit in 1998. Kirsten joining Project Transformation provides a great opportunity where Kirsten can advocate for North Texas’s youth and help them develop leadership skills.
“Project Transformation just sits in with all of the things that I am passionate about,” she says. “Everyone deserves that opportunity to succeed. Sometimes these kids don’t have access to quality after-school programs or the things that a lot of people take for granted. Our programs go through high school with an emphasis on helping kids with college or figuring out what to do after high school.”
Throughout most of 2020, the Project Transformation team conducted their after-school programs virtually, but starting in February of this year Project Transformation North Texas began hosting their programming in person once again, taking extra safety measures wherever possible.
Nonprofits like Project Transformation are essential for kids across North Texas to have the resources and skills they need to succeed in life. If you are interested in helping Project Transformation, there are many opportunities. Simply check their website to find all the information you need to donate or volunteer your time. And if you are a young adult looking for a paid internship this summer where you can make a lasting impact in North Texas, visit their website to learn more and apply today.