MAKING A DIFFERENCE: UW internship leads to a career for Kami May

Published 6:43 pm Monday, July 16, 2018

Few people are able to walk right into their planned career.

Kami May is one.

The Vicksburg native and Warren Central High School graduate is the director of Marketing for United Way of West Central Mississippi. You could say she “eased” into the job.

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A major in communications with a second concentration in community advocacy and public relations at the University of Louisiana at Monroe in Monroe, Louisiana, she was required to do an internship during her senior year.

“Lori Burke told me about United Way, and I called them to see if they had an internship, and they said yes,” she said. “So I did my internship in the summer of 2016.”

When Tyler McNeal, who held the position at the time, left to another job, United Way executive director Michele Connelly named May for the job.

“It has been a whole new adventure,” she said. “Working at United Way is something different every day. I think working in this position and the nonprofit world in general, you have to have passion; that’s something you can’t teach. I think everything I do at United Way I put 100 percent passion in it. It’s just fun and I love it.”

As director of marketing, May said she does “ a little bit of everything.” She handles the advertising for the organization, oversees United Way’s social media accounts and goes to local businesses to talk about the United Way campaign and what it means to give to United Way.

“What I enjoy most about working for United Way is I like talking; I like going with Michele to talk to talk to different civic clubs and different events and sharing the United Way story. I love United Way and everything it’s given me.”

She said working with United Way gives her a chance to get involved with the member agencies, which gives more insight when she tells United Way’s story.

“When I started here, my favorite part of the job was getting in touch with the agencies,” May said. “I’m the director of marketing for 19 other partner agencies, and that’s incredible, because some of those agencies are small, and they don’t have a marketing person on their staff, but I can serve as that for them.

“I’ve done brochures for Vicksburg Family Development, I’ve done advertising posters for the YMCA, and just going in there and being able to interact with them and see their vision for their organization and making that come true is real important.”

May also holds a second job, working as a morning deejay at WVBG from 6 to 8 a.m. before going to United Way.

She said station owner Mark Jones offered her a position after interviews when she competed in the Mississippi Outstanding Teen Pageant in high school. “After the interviews, he said, ‘When you become of age, come and see me. I think you will do well,’” she said.

“Tying those positions together has made my life exciting,” she said. “Those jobs are completely different and sometimes I have to think, ‘Is this going to overlap with my United Way job or my radio job?’ I enjoy both.”

When she is not working at United Way or WVBG, May is a life leader for 12th grade girls at Crossways Church.

“What a life leader entails is, I’m a person they can lean on and guide them through life. When their boyfriend breaks up with them at 3 o’clock in the morning, I want to be that person they call to help them through any life situation.”

She said she volunteered for position and was accepted, adding she’s been with the group of girls she guides since they were in the ninth grade, “So I’ve been doing it for four years.”

But her first love remains working for nonprofit agencies.

“I always knew I wanted to do nonprofit work,” May said. “Before the internship, before anything, when I majored in community advocacy, I wanted to help a nonprofit out; to be a spokesperson for a nonprofit agency. I started that in high school when I volunteered at the Warren County Children’s Shelter.

“(Shelter director) Cindy McCarley was my mentor, and I was able to go to her and just talk about my ideas on what I wanted to with the rest of my life.”

And she plans to remain at United Way for a while.

“This is where I need to be right now,” she said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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