Now that the 2018-2019 school year has begun, The Partnership for Educational Excellence is wrapping up its mini-biographies of some (12 percent) of its past scholars who have volunteered their information and reflections on the role of post-secondary education in their lives.
The final three bios are a celebration of its three very first scholars. Matt Herman, John Heyen, and Tracy Mathis (in alphabetical order) graduated in 1993. They each received $250 – all that The Partnership could afford – as they set off for college.
Today The Partnership offers $1,000 scholarships, and in 2018 awarded them to 21 Gillespie High School graduates, nearly 30 percent of the graduating class. This education 501(c)3 foundation in Macoupin County CUSD7 has invested nearly $800,000 in district children to date.
Traci Mathis Kennebeck graduated from Gillespie High School in 1993, winning a $250 Partnership for Educational Excellence scholarship.
Traci earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from St. Louis University in 1997. The next two years she worked to obtain a Master’s degree in social work from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
“I worked in the social work field for years with positions in women’s health research, foster care and adoption, and supporting adults with disabilities to live independently in their communities,” she says.
“I then became a certified birth doula and worked as an on-staff doula at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville from 2009 to 2011,” Traci recounts. In addition, in 2010 she started a private doula collective called Purple Lotus Doulas with several business partners. Purple Lotus continues to provide birth and postpartum doula services, including lactation support and placenta encapsulation, in St. Louis and surrounding areas.
Traci has also trained in the field of aromatherapy, gaining several certifications. “I have built a thriving holistic health business (Purple Lotus Oils), focusing mainly on providing education and support in the use of essential oils. I enjoy traveling all over the country to teach, and I love the opportunities I get to not only support others in their quest for better health and comfort, but also to provide mentorship for others in the field who are building their businesses,” she says.
An active volunteer throughout her life, Traci now holds a goal of establishing a charitable arm of my current business. “My heart’s vision would be to found a not-for-profit that would help provide birth support and education to pregnant teenage girls in the foster care system,” she says. Traci lives in St. Louis with her husband Jack and two sons, Trent and Dominic. She enjoys
volunteering at their schools and being involved in their soccer and hockey activities. In her spare time, she enjoys travel, camping, hiking, fishing, and playing hockey with her family. “I also enjoy learning new things and adding items to my skill set” from crafting to home improvement, she says. Currently she is studying the Scottish Gaelic Language independently and with distance learning courses through an organization in Scotland.
“As for the role The Partnership played in my life, I remember the sense of relief that was provided by knowing the money I received would help move me toward my envisioned life goals,” Traci recalls. “My career goal has always only been to help people, which is why I was drawn to the field of social service. I would never have envisioned myself as a future business entrepreneur. In my current career path, however, I feel that I am in a position to h help empower people and serve them more than when I worked in direct contact in the social service field. It has allowed me to develop and grow more on a personal level as well, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities which have come my way.”
Traci is the daughter of Mike and Janice Mathis of Gillespie.