Kim Burkhardt is the executive director and founder of NC4RSO, an organization that promotes reentry programs for prisoners to get accustomed to their new lives after being released – but Kim wasn’t always as successful as she is today. In fact, she had once been a problematic child who got in trouble with the law and almost got jailed. Today, her organization is giving other inmates a second chance to change their lives and become better individuals.
A Troubled Teen Turned Humanitarian
Back in the 90’s Kim’s life had fallen off the tracks and her troublesome behavior had almost landed her in prison, and if it wasn’t for her family’s support and their willingness to give her a second chance, she would have never turned into the person she is today. After enrolling in college, she began volunteering in prisons to see the environment that other inmates must survive in.
Seeing the condition of the prisons and the lives they must lead behind bars, Kim was grateful for the second chance that saved her life – but she knew that others deserved that second chance too. That gave Burkhardt the idea of starting prison reentry programs to help ex-convicts return to community after being released.
Today she is the executive director of NC4RSO, an umbrella organization that includes several prison nonprofits in the U.S. But Burkhardt never planned to take her career in this direction.
The Beginning of a new Career
Burkhardt went to Regis University to earn her master’s in Business Administration because she wanted to become a marketing consultant but, after graduating in 2001, she became an independent contractor and started her own freelance marketing business while continuing to volunteer at different prisons.
Things were going well until the market crash of 2008 that left Burkhardt out of business and she had to look elsewhere for work. It was around that time when she realized that she had been volunteering at different prisons more than a decade but there wasn’t any umbrella organization that linked all the nonprofits together.
That’s when the idea of NC4RSO was conceived. The organization was established in 2010 with the aim of helping prison nonprofits find volunteers for different programs. NC4RSO wasn’t simply coordinating volunteer-led programs but also conducting researches to prove the importance of them for prisoners who needed counseling before being returned to the community.
In 2011, the organization, led by Kim Burkhardt and her impressive marketing background, conducted a crucial research which proved that almost all ex-convicts admitted the need for a mentoring figure after being released from prison.
Making an Impact in People’s Lives
Prisons in United States make up almost one-fourth of the world’s inmate population and most of the prisoners are released at some point in their lives, leaving a need for reentry programs to help them transition into their new lives.
Most of the ex-convicts find it difficult to find employment due to their past record and are often compelled to return to their old criminal ways in order to make a living. NC4RSO aims to solve these problems and promote reentry programs in 28 prison nonprofits in 11 different states. Burkhardt is in charge of overseeing the operations of the organization and engage with all nonprofit prisons that fall under NC4RSO.
She says that her jobs get easier with the support of volunteers and all her organization does is coordinate all the volunteers’ efforts and help make an impact in people’s lives.
Kim says that her degree and the experience she gained while working in prison volunteer programs came in handy in starting the business and ensuring that it succeeded. But most importantly, she was grateful that her work was helping inmates get a chance at living a decent life after prison.