Incoming CEO Jared Kittelson addresses the guests attending the Ashton Family Field dedication.

Seven years ago, Jared Kittelson went to dinner with a friend of a friend to talk about a golf tournament. He had no idea that he would leave that dinner headed down new path—one that would lead him to be the next CEO of the Foundation for Blind Children. Jared thought he was going to pitch a potential partner, but in the end, he was the one being pitched.

What was being sold to Jared was a job at the Foundation for Blind Children as its Director of Education Services. It was a bit of a shock, but Jared was willing to listen. At the time, he worked for the Valley of the Sun YMCA and had no experience working with people who are visually impaired. What Jared did have though was a long track record of successful leadership, an entire career working in education, and a dedication to serving under-served kids.

Learning to Serve

Like most twenty-two-year-olds, Jared had no idea what he wanted to do after college. The only thing he knew was that he liked working with kids, so he took a job at a camp for adjudicated teens in rural Georgia.

It was a hard couple of years and the kids Jared worked with came to him facing all sorts of challenges, but it was rewarding work, and it taught Jared a lot.

“These tough kids were really just boys who weren’t tucked in when they were little,” Jared said. “They had to grow up too early, so I need to build trust with them so they could just be kids again.”

Jared supported kids on an individual level, but this experience showed him that what was needed was systemic change for populations that needed help. He started thinking larger and set his sights on helping more people.

Changing Systems

 

Jared moved to Phoenix, got a master’s degree in secondary education, and began teaching at an alternative high school. Within just two years, he was asked to step up during a crisis and became the principal of his school.

“They quite literally handed me the keys,” said Jared, “and they told me I was in charge.”

A child wearing a black graduation cap holds a certificate and her white cane surrounded by her smiling teacher and Jared at graduation.

At only twenty-six, Jared found himself in charge of 20 staff and 400 students. It was a crash course in leadership, but Jared was able to manage the crisis. Within a few years, he was in charge of twenty-three schools in three states. Finally, he was able to help shape systems for marginalized populations.

Changing the World of Vision Education

When Jared began working at FBC in 2017, he knew he had a lot to learn. He knew a lot about education and how to motivate a team of educators, but this was an entirely new challenge. He dove headfirst into his new role and found the challenge to be exciting. He gave his team at FBC a mandate.

“I said there were two non-negotiables: you have to be nice to each other, and you have to care about kids.”

As long as the team worked well together and were invested in the mission, everything else would follow. In his time at FBC, Jared has overseen the preschool’s growth into the largest school for the blind in the country. He has rafted the Grand Canyon with a group of visually impaired teens. He has worked to make FBC an efficient, effective, and sustainable organization.

“FBC has been around for over seventy years, and my job is to make sure it is around for another seventy.”

Jared is stepping into the role of CEO of FBC, and he does so with immense optimism. He is excited to face whatever comes next and is grateful to take over such a healthy organization. As Jared said, “FBC is about hope, not pity. It’s always about what’s possible.”

FBC’s new objective is to ensure that everyone with vision loss in Arizona has access to the education and services they need. Jared’s goal is to make that objective a reality, so nobody goes without.