For as long as Joliet’s Natalie Coleman can remember, she has believed in the power of being involved in the community.
“I guess it was just part of me,” she said. “Both my parents are always helping somebody in some shape or form. So, I think it’s just in my DNA.”
It was not until 2004, after her military stint in Iraq, that Coleman decided she wanted to make an impact in the veterans’ community, too.
“It propelled me to look at life a little bit differently,” Coleman said, citing the perspective she gained serving in Iraq. “The whole country’s not just a sandbox, but there are certain amenities that we have in America and things that we are privy to, that they are not.”
Since then, Coleman has launched a pair of initiatives: After the Peanut, a business focused on science, technology, engineering and math, and After the Peanut Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose initial projects are to build a transitional home for women who have served and another dubbed, “A Medal for Harriet”, that aims to honor Harriet Tubman, an abolitionist who helped many slaves gain their freedom. She was buried with military honors upon her death in 1913.
After the Peanut Foundation this year will host a gospel experience, featuring special guest Kierra Sheard. The event is planned for 7 p.m. June 16 at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 18101 W. Oak Ave., in Lockport. Tickets can be purchased online at www.eventbrite.com by searching for “A Gospel Experience”.
Coleman said she has put careful thought into her ventures.
“Even the name of my company and foundation stems from George Washington Carver and his legacy,“ she said. “What I found often in teaching science was a lot students were under the misconception that scientists are white men in lab coats. I’ve even done a study where I had fourth-grade students draw a scientist, and out of probably 150 of them, only four were females.”
Coleman has a Sunday morning segment on radio station WJOL entitled, “Lean Into Inspiration,” that she credited for helping her to spread the word about her initiatives.
“It’s a platform for me, but it’s also a platform for other people like me,” she said.
Coleman and her co-host, StayC T, fill the airwaves with the voices of likeminded individuals and owners of small businesses and/or nonprofit organizations in the community.
“The [segment’s] tag line is, ‘Inspire to Aspire’, so we’re trying to inspire our generation, the next generation, the generation, to do something greater than themselves,” she said.
Stacy Thomas, who serves as a co-host on the segment alongside Coleman, said it has been a pleasure to work with her.
“Natalie works really hard to make sure our future generation knows just how important education is,” she said.
Thomas said she can’t wait to see how everything that Coleman is doing now will help Joliet and surrounding Will County communities.
When asked how she hopes to be remembered when people reflect on her legacy, Coleman hopes others will realize the power of education.
“It really is true the more you know, the farther you can go in life,” she said. “I don’t mean degrees, I mean knowledge, period.”