You can still hear the lilt of Jamaica in Simone Collman’s voice, even though the 43-year-old has lived in this country since she was nine.
But her Caribbean roots go deep, they’re in how she views family, how she sees life and in the commitment she brings to her role to the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) as an event coordinator.
It’s a role she was made for, or raised for you could say. Back in Jamaica, in the small community of Connors, about an hour west of the country’s capital of Kingston, Collman’s family still runs a general store, but more than that, they take care of people. “We make sure people get fed. If they don’t have enough money for food, we make sure they get fed anyway.”
Growing up with such community spirit and surrounded by a lush tropical environment where cherries, bananas and mangoes hung ripe and ready to pick off the trees, made leaving Jamaica hard, but in the 1980s Collman’s family moved to New York City to make a better life for themselves.
You can hear the Brooklyn in Collman’s voice as well, when she laughs about experiencing cold for the first time, or talks seriously about how hard her mother and father worked, as a title insurance underwriter and a oil tanker driver respectively.
It was a happy childhood—she describes herself as a rough-and-tumble tomboy—that took her to The City College of New York to study nursing where she got a little “too” happy, becoming just a little too interested in the social scene. “I was a party girl!” Collman says with a laugh. She then attended Pace University where she studied computer science and criminal justice. In between she worked at title insurance agencies as a title typist, title processor and myriad other title positions. She also had a son Tyler, now 14.
She moved to North Carolina in 2005 with her mother, sister and son for a change of scenery and started working at IEI in 2006 as a temporary office assistant, beginning work right as former director Anita Brown-Graham had taken over leadership of the Institute. Collman eventually moved into the role of event coordinator and it was through her work at IEI that she developed a love for public policy which ultimately led to her receiving a bachelor’s degree in leadership in the public sector from NC State in 2013 and master’s degree in public policy and public administration from Liberty University in 2016.
Collman’s event planning role is an important one as IEI’s ReCONNECT to Community forum fast approaches. Taking place Nov. 27 in Asheville, the forum kicks off IEI’s ReCONNECT NC initiative, which will include six forums over the next three years, each focusing on a different aspect of civic, social and economic recconnection in North Carolina.
“I love what I do. I believe in our mission and vision,” Collman said.
Collman is responsible for coordination of the forum which includes run of show, project management, site selection, speaker logistics, menu planning and countless other details.
When she’s not planning forums, you can find Collman writing poetry, cooking and hanging out with her beloved son, Tyler, a Fortnite enthusiast.
Learn more about IEI’s upcoming ReCONNECT to Community forum at emergingissues.org.