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Living Their Lessons

Jonathan Cooper

Superintendent and CEO

Mason City School District

Life Lesson: "Believe in your kids in a way that allows them to find their purpose. Start by listening."

It’s hard to imagine a person loving his job more than Mason City Schools Superintendent Jonathan Cooper.

“It's not a job ever; it’s a joy. I love to coming to work and serving others every day,” he says.

Even though he started as an art major, Jonathan found his way to education. It may just be in is DNA: his parents are both retired teachers, and his brother is currently a high school teacher. They’re thrilled he ended up choosing this path and even follow him on Twitter (@cooperlearns).

Jonathan started working at MCS in 2014 as the chief innovation officer, was named the superintendent by the School Board in late 2018 and just completed his first school year as the district’s CEO. His role is serving the students, staff and families of Mason. Jonathan and his team have established a transformational strategy called the “Three Big Rocks Journey” that represents the vision and core values of the schools: culture, inclusive excellence and personalized learning.

“When I get to be in classrooms with students and teachers and see them living our vision and values, I couldn’t be more proud of the purposeful culture we have built together allowing us to take thoughtful risks and embrace innovative practice,” Jonathan says.

Words to Live By: "Be authentic, and live your true north."

Mike Kelly

Life Coach, Consultant, Speaker

Right Path Enterprises LLC

Life Lesson: "I often think about legacy and future generations. It’s important to think beyond our own lifetimes."

Every now and then, we meet people who immediately get us focused on what’s important.Mike Kelly is one of those people. It makes sense because Mike is a productive guy. In addition to running his own businesses, he serves on the boards of Mars Hill University and the May Festival, the finance committee for Deerfield Township, he's a 20-year Rotary International member and a substitute teaching leader for an international bible study group. You may wonder how he finds the time, but getting people focused on their priorities is what he does.

“I’m intellectually curious, but I’m also clear on my purpose and priorities. It makes it easier to know what to say yes to and what to say no to,” he says.

Because Mike was a high-potential leader at both Michelin and Macy’s for more than 20 years, he experienced many facets of business and benefited from additional investment in his training and development. As an executive leader, he found himself coaching people and saw an opportunity to take his experiences outward. He now helps counsel others in “leadership skills, effectiveness, finding their purpose and achieving their God-given potential.”

At Right Path Enterprises, he and his wife, Melinda, also work with leaders on life balance.

“We’re helping people develop plans and habits so they can spend time on the things that are really important to them,” Mike says.

Words to Live By: "Love and serve others above yourself, despite the fact that they may be different from you."

David Charpentier

Executive Coach and Consultant, American Legion Commander

Conscious Dynamics LLC, American Legion Post #194

Life Lesson: "We are better when we’re willing to reflect on who we are and how we show up in the world."

David Charpentier believes the better you understand yourself, the better you can be in your work and relationships. It’s part of what he does as an executive coach and organizational development consultant with local company Conscious Dynamics, where his role is to help individuals and teams with their emotional and social intelligence and how their behavior affects the ways they lead, communicate and resolve conflict.

He also understands from his own experience transitioning from serving in the military to the corporate world how people may struggle internally with different workplace dynamics.

“Going from the military where I knew exactly what my daily routine was to starting a corporate job where I didn’t understand the titles, roles, shared purpose or mission was hard to navigate. The things you do don’t necessarily carry the same significance,” he says. “I don’t think I totally realized how difficult that transition really was.”

To reconnect with fellow service members, he first got involved in nonprofits that provide veteran services. Then eight years ago, he joined the local American Legion Post #194 in Mason, where he found a sense of belonging, community and service. He eventually ran for the position of commander, after some urging.

“I came to the realization that this was my opportunity to serve the organization and community. Being in the military is about serving.”

Words to Live By: "Connection matters more than anything."

George Sehi

Founder and Board Chair  

Women Walking West, Inc.

Life Lesson: "I believe that the keys to success in life are two things: be focused on whatever your passion is, and appreciate other people."

George Sehi immigrated to the United States in 1975 at the age of 17 with $500 in his pocket. Along the way, neighbors, friends, teachers and the universities he attended helped him realize his ambitions.   

George had a 27-year tenure at Sinclair College, where he was a faculty member, department chair, founding dean of the Courseview campus in Mason and chief administrative officer for five years. After retiring from Sinclair, he started the nonprofit organization Women Walking West, Inc. partly based on his own life experiences and observations working in higher education.

“When I was at Sinclair, I saw a lot of immigrant students, especially women, who needed help with challenges they were facing. I could relate to their concerns and issues. My two daughters and women in general being at a disadvantage, even in America, also drove me to want to give back,” he says.

To date, Women Walking West has helped more than 90 women from 35 different countries gain access to opportunities needed to succeed in school and life. They hope to reach 500 women in the next five years. George sees this as his true legacy.

Above all, he wants people to understand that the immigrants they are helping are a valuable part of our communities.

“When most people come to the United States, they want to be here and want to stay. It’s not throwing money away; they are an investment in our society,” George says.

Words to Live By: "The words you use matter and have a long-lasting impact."