High school students smile on receiving book about the habits of success
Kennrod Helps Children Succeed


Kennrod is a young organization–in only its second year of operation–that is striving to make a positive difference in the world. The organization hopes to offer support to schoolchildren from low-income homes so as to enable them to graduate high school, go to college, and enter the workforce as productive citizens. Kars4Kids appreciates this vision, and as such, was extra pleased and touched to discover that our small grant to Kennrod was the first grant the organization had ever received.

May it be the first of many!

We spoke to Founder and President of Kennrod, Kelley Castlin-Gacutan, to learn more about the work of this organization:

Kars4Kids: How old is Kennrod? What gave you the idea and spurred you on to create this organization?

Kelley Castlin-Gacutan: Kennrod was established on December 15, 2016 as a way to provide support to families in need and to honor the memory of my daughter Kennedy and my first husband Rodney. Kennedy died unexpectedly from a birth defect in 1999. Rodney was murdered while working at a hotel during a robbery in 2000. The name of our organization, Kennrod, is a contraction of the names Kennedy and Rodney: a way to give meaning to loss.

Kars4Kids: How many children is Kennrod serving?

Kelley Castlin-Gacutan: We currently have 54 students enrolled in Kennrod. These students primarily attend two schools within the Metropolitan Atlanta area. Kennrod has been able to provide college and career preparation support to these students through activities such as college visits, business visits, and presentations by people in various professions about their work.

A man gives students a presentation about his work

Kars4Kids: How many children have received tutoring since Kennrod began its operations?

Kelley Castlin-Gacutan: Three students have received tutoring since Kennrod began offering services. The goal of our tutoring is to bring students up to scratch with their peers in the classroom and to help them succeed in their exams. The fact that our students no longer require tutoring, shows the success of Kennrod’s earliest efforts!

Kars4Kids: How do parents find out about your services?

Kelley Castlin-Gacutan: Parents generally find out about our services through our website or by word of mouth from participating students and families.

Kars4Kids: How important is parental participation to what you’re doing for the students you help?

Kelley Castlin-Gacutan: As a young organization with limited funding, Kennrod hopes to offer workshops for parents in such areas as academic strategies, behavior support, and college planning, once funding permits. Meantime, we do strive to keep our parents informed of our work through meetings, newsletters, social media, and direct communication.

Kars4Kids: Tell us about the career presentations you’ve offered: what fields have the children you serve, learned about?
A visit to a motorcycle plant

Kelley Castlin-Gacutin: The children have heard presentations from career practitioners in fields as disparate as finance, education, music, medicine, and business. These presentations are marvelous opportunities for kids to learn first-hand about a particular career journey and also give students an idea of the sort of education and skill sets might be required for a given profession. Finally, these real life examples of working people offer Kennrod youths an understanding of how success is measured in the various fields represented by our presenters.

Kars4Kids: Kennrod students have thus far received tutoring at a public library. Is this for want of a physical plant—is there no space at Kennrod’s office, at present? Is there a reason tutors wouldn’t work with students in their homes?

Kelley Castlin-Gacutan: Yes. Kennrod students have received tutoring Smiling Kennrod youth with presenterservices at a public library near their home. The Kennrod office is a lease space that is not conducive for tutoring. We are currently in the strategic planning process and are looking at different ways to strengthen our tutorial model.

Kars4Kids: Last year, Kennrod kids visited the campus of Emory University as part of a college and career preparation effort. Is this a standard part of what Kennrod offers?

Kelley Castlin-Gacutan: Yes, college and career preparation services are a standard part of what Kennrod offers. We want to foster opportunities for students to visit different colleges and businesses in an effort to experience what these settings could possibly mean for them in the future. Kennrod students have taken field trips to Emory University and Georgia Piedmont Technical College to learn about the various program offerings, enrollment requirements, financial aid, and the overall collegiate experience.

Kars4Kids: Tell us about your student field trips to area businesses.A smiling policewoman poses with a smiling Kennrod student

Kelley Castil-Gacutan: In consideration of helping to build a strong workforce, Kennrod has made it possible for students to visit Georgia Power Plant Scherer and the United Parcel Service, also known as UPS, Atlanta-based Operations Facility. Georgia Power Plant Scherer is the largest coal operating plant in the country.  While at the power plant, students were able to receive a presentation about the company, speak with engineers about their career journey, and tour the facility. They also learned about opportunities that could be available to them should they earn the appropriate workforce credentials while still in high school. During the UPS visit, students received a company presentation, interacted with UPS employees, and participated in a facility tour.

Kars4Kids: What’s next for Kennrod?

Kelley Castlin-Gacutan: Kennrod will have a completed 3-year strategic plan by June 2018. Our goal is to utilize this plan by putting our goals into action so as to create experiences for our students and parents to grow and learn. Each year we want to build on the year before and strengthen our programs and services.

Kennrod sincerely appreciates the financial support from Kars4Kids. The funds received will be used to help more of our students receive literacy support, beginning this summer.