“The mission of Smart Horizons Career Online Education is a passion of mine,” says Koleena Schmidt, MA. “I relate to second chances—both giving them and receiving them. I needed a great deal of help to find the successes in my life that I have, and I’m always looking for opportunities to give back to our community.”

Koleena is a new academic coach at Smart Horizons. She is responsible for guiding students through their time at the school, monitoring their progress, and offering support academically, technically, and personally.

She has an inspiring story of her own. When she was 14, Koleena’s parents divorced and her family life was in upheaval. Her mother had an addiction problem, and Koleena was forced to leave her home. She bounced around between friends’ houses for 3 years before ending up pregnant at 17.

“Wow—that was a really difficult time. I did a lot of soul searching,” she says. Eventually, she was able to navigate a new relationship with her mother, and she moved back in and earned her GED. Koleena then entered a group home with her baby, and worked her way through college. She eventually had another child and got married.

She has been teaching middle school for a decade, and also earned a Master of Arts in adult education.

She is excited to join the Smart Horizons faculty team.

“I feel that I bring a positive and encouraging nature to our students. Because of my history, I am able to empathize and help provide solution-oriented support to any challenges that might impede our students’ success,” she said.

“I didn’t have the familial or financial support to complete school the way many of my peers did. I had to figure out my way and find unique resources in order to mitigate the circumstances of my life. I never gave up. I set a goal and made it happen for myself. I think it gave me a foundation to work with adults and young adults that are in similar situations and need encouragement.”

In addition to her work as a teacher, Koleena and her mother joined together to found a non-profit organization that supports young mothers exiting the juvenile system and reestablishing themselves in the community.

What are some unique traits about Koleena? “I have a traveler’s soul and love to see new things, meet new people, and try new things. I really enjoy the outdoors and sailing. I am an avid ‘audience’ mom, as I never miss a game or performance that either of my children have, and I love every minute of it. My husband and I find joy in the smallest of things and pride ourselves on being ready for the unexpected!”

What would Koleena tell someone who doesn’t have a high school diploma and believes they can’t fit it in their life? “There will never be a ‘good’ time to go back to school,” she says, “and there is never going to be a good reason not to!”