Kalai Herko: A Journey to Agora with Many Paths
From the journal of: Kalai Herko
Position: Child Accounting Lead
Years in the Agora family: Five
Home base: Glenolden, PA
Kalai’s journey to Agora has been a bit different, and that is what makes it so special. Kalai did not grow up in a family of teachers, did not always have the voracious appetite for learning that she has now and did not always know she would have a career linked with education. Kalai also did not graduate from high school at age 18 like many young people. However, Kalai does not shy away from any of these facts. On the contrary, she embraces the early influences in her life that led her to Agora, since they helped make her extremely effective in her role as a child accounting lead, especially when it comes to one of her critical responsibilities of assimilating students into the Agora educational journey.
Kalai describes herself as being exploratory at various stages of her life. As a preteen and teenager, she was trapped in an educational experience defined by bullying as well as fear of her dangerous neighborhood, where viable school options did not exist. Even though she was a great student in elementary school and loved the studies of high school, the darker experiences engulfed her and, without a cyber school option, led her to drop out of high school at age 16. Even after receiving her GED and a degree in human services from Delaware County Community College, Kalai was uncertain about her path, bouncing from job to job. Still, Kalai allowed every experience to influence her next step, and eventually that led her to Agora. And here, Kalai’s unique experiences have made her a treasured asset. The reason is best captured in her own words:
“I have become a nurturer by nature. I listen because I understand sometimes all a person needs is a chance to be heard. Because of my own hardships, I can relate to the challenges of others and be open-minded. I can put myself in their shoes and earn their trust.”
The journey to Agora
As mentioned above, Kalai’s journey to Agora started with her own challenges as a youngster. These hardships sparked a passion for giving back as well as social work. However, getting there did not come immediately. Once she had a child of her own, she realized the importance of finishing her education and receiving training that would help her find employment to pay the bills. Her schooling and training included healthcare, social service and accounting. As a medical assistant, she developed her own brand of compassion and caring for others, something for which she is known at Agora. And the same can be said of her job as a blackjack dealer, where she learned to appreciate the value of bonding with her coworkers and engaging with all walks of life. Wearing many hats along her career journey, she has gleaned value from them all. Her final job before coming to Agora was as a social services caseworker, which seemed to fit the next leg in her journey. When she began as a child accounting assistant, Kalai had very little knowledge of Agora or cyber charter schools in general. But true to her life’s philosophy, Kalai knew opportunities come because you make them yourself—and she was determined to give it her all with Agora.
“As soon as I sat down at that desk and was given instructions, I took it and ran,” Kalai said. “It was the most natural thing for me. What I do, how I do it and all the detail that goes into it. Everything was so natural. This position was meant for me. This is why I was searching the whole time—so I could find my niche with Agora.”
Being the difference
A mother of three grown children and a grandmother, Kalai has used her life’s journey to impart her philosophy of exploring, compassion and thinking outside the box to everyone she meets. She has personally motivated herself, going from searching for her future to being incredibly fulfilled in life and her career. All day, every day, Kalai harnesses all of what she has learned to carry out her responsibilities as a child accounting lead with the utmost integrity and success, as well as to provide true inspiration to the students and faculty.
“I did not realize how valuable my skills were until I was with Agora,” said Kalai. “You have to find your niche! This is a great lesson for kids. You will find where you belong. It may take some time, but you will find it.”
The next chapter
Once Kalai found herself at Agora and discovered she had reached her destination, she knew she was home. Having always loved learning and education, even when circumstances set up roadblocks, Kalai has a deep appreciation for the opportunities she was given to grow personally and professionally. Consequently, she also has a deep commitment to paying it forward by bringing similar opportunities to others. Kalai loves to share knowledge with others, and she excels at doing so. She is continually doing research and broadening her own learning on all aspects of the child accounting world and beyond. With her own knowledge and growth as a foundation, she will continue to work with others and offer guidance based on her experiences.
“The individualized journeys we offer at Agora make the biggest difference,” said Kalai. “Every situation you find yourself in is temporary until you make it permanent. In my experience, it is much better if you get up and go for it.”