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From Biology Major to COO: Alumna Built Foundation for Success at York College

Headshot of Katharine Royer

The drive of Kat Royer ‘08 to help others led her on a path to professional success as Chief Operating Officer of Olivet Boys & Girls Club of Reading & Berks County.

Kat Royer’s trajectory from college to career was not a straight line. She graduated from York College of Pennsylvania in 2008 with a degree in Biology. Now, 14 years later, she’s Chief Operating Officer of Olivet Boys & Girls Club of Reading & Berks County.

On the surface, her major and her position might seem disconnected. But each step between them has been like a brick, laying the foundation for her next step and the one after that. The life she’s built is one of passion, hard work, adventure, and dedication. And it started at York College.

Launching her adventure

The year 2008 was a blur. Royer graduated from York College in May, was married to a fellow Spartan (in the York College chapel, no less), and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, to have an adventure and continue her education—all in less than a year. It was while earning her Master of Science degree in Medical Genetics and conducting cancer research in a lab that she discovered a new interest.

“I wanted to explore something working more with people and public health,” she says.

She earned her degree, moved back to the States, and served one year with AmeriCorps, which provides people power and funding to communities to foster education, improve health outcomes, and respond to disasters. At AmeriCorps, she connected medically complex patients with social services and primary care physicians.

“It really solidified that nonprofit work was where I wanted to be,” she says, “and that mission-driven work is really rewarding for me.”

She took on a managerial role at AmeriCorps, which led to her next job, working at the Boys & Girls Club as its AmeriCorps director. Five years later, her solid foundation complete, she was promoted to COO.

The first brick

Royer credits York College with much more than just providing her with a four-year degree.

“Although I’m not in a career related to my major, I really do believe that my college experience set me up for success in the future,” she says. “My experience at York, especially in the science field—critical thinking, analytical thinking, and also writing—that’s heavily used in the science field, but that’s something I use every day. These are skills that I have advanced throughout my career and they all started at York.”

York College was where Royer learned about self-care and work-life balance. And because York is such a small and close-knit community, she built relationships with peers and professors that instilled a team-oriented philosophy that has stuck with her through the years.

 “The environment at York is really special,” she says.

Finding fulfillment

The job of COO isn’t easy, but staying grounded and remembering what’s important and what her purpose is have helped Royer focus and push forward.

Royer has four children, and she thinks of them when she considers her mission at the Boys & Girls Club.

“I want to be there for my kids. I want them to be successful and be happy, and I want them to have really great futures,” she says. “And I want that for all kids, in all communities. All kids deserve the same opportunities to grow up and thrive socially, emotionally, academically, and have a bright future ahead of them.”