Toni L. Coleman Carter, faculty member at Columbia College-Elgin, was recently recognized as the Humanitarian of the Year and a Woman of Purpose by ‘A Caring Hand Foundation’, a nonprofit organization focused on empowering teen mothers with a network of support services while helping them reach their future goals.
Coleman Carter is using her own life experience as a former teenage mother and now successful businesswoman to help young mothers avoid the pitfalls and perils they can experience surrounding an unplanned pregnancy.
“I was a teen mother, so I feel it’s my responsibility to help give back to people who may fall into the same situation I did when I was a teen,” Coleman Carter says. “I always start off every conversation when I am talking to people in the community about encouraging young people not to become parents before they finish their education, have landed their first job and have a few working years under their belt, because it’s really difficult when you are a teen parent.”
Despite the challenges of giving birth to her first child at the age of 15, Coleman Carter has successfully navigated her way through life thanks to the support of her grandmother, Eliza Taylor and a group of cousins she calls the “Hughes Clan”. Simultaneously, while nurturing her beautiful family, Coleman Carter has earned her bachelor and master’s degrees in Human Resources Management from Roosevelt University, and by working in various roles at Motorola Solutions for the past 22 years.
“There will be some people that have to learn the hard way like me, so if they happen to become a teen parent, they still need support, they still need people who will help them through situations and that is our responsibility. A Caring Hands Foundation works with young parents who are generally in high school. We try to ensure they graduate from high school and go on to pursue some type of formal education, without which they will struggle.”
Coleman Carter has served as an instructor at the college for five years, focusing mainly on management and human resources classes. Her inclusive insights resonate with her students and her community leadership has not gone unnoticed. Coleman Carter was also recently recognized with the Leadership Excellence Award by the Illinois Diversity Council, a chapter of the National Diversity Council.
“Diversity is important to me, but what’s more important is inclusion,” Coleman Carter notes. “Being from an under-represented group (Coleman Carter describes herself as “both native American Indian and Black”), and having been put in so many situations where we’re not a part of the majority group, it’s a real struggle. Sophisticated organizations acknowledge diversity is a byproduct of inclusion; and without it, diverse talent will leave – which ultimately impacts the bottom-line.”
Carter and her husband, Gary, have three children Candes (29), John (28) and Taylor (4). Outside of spending time with her family of five and working in the community, Coleman Carter published her first series of books and work books, entitled “When Trouble Finds You.” Later this year, she’ll release another titled, When Trouble Finds You Black in America. At some point, she would like to pursue teaching full time at the college level. But right now, Columbia College is the beneficiary of her discretionary energy and passion for helping others in the classroom.
“When I’m in class, I’m energized, I’m energetic and I’m engaging our students and let me tell you, every night when I leave, I’m totally exhausted and need a whole day to recuperate,” Coleman Carter says with a laugh.