Get to Know HFC: Kelly Baratono
Kelly Baratono has spent her professional life at HFC. She started exactly one month after graduating from Allen Park High School!
“In my high school English class, we were given the assignment to write and submit an entrance essay to a college or university. I applied to the Henry Ford II Honors Program and was accepted to HFC (then Henry Ford Community College) with a full scholarship. I continued as an HFC Honors student for the next three years in a 3+1 transfer program with Eastern Michigan University,” said Baratono, who has been the HFC Manager of Orientation and New Student Engagement since 2018.
A lifelong Allen Park resident, Baratono graduated with honors from HFC, earning two associate degrees: one in business administration, and one in management. Transferring to EMU, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in marketing. She also earned her certificate in supervision from HFC.
“I was an undecided student when I graduated from high school who needed to declare a major at HFC,” said Baratono. “My rationale was that everything was a business, so I selected business administration as my career path.”
Creating spaces for service that did not exist two years ago
Throughout her career at HFC, Baratono has held several positions:
- Student Worker – Honors Department (2005-07)
- Student Ambassador – Enrollment Development (2006-08, 2010)
- Recruiter – Enrollment Development (2011-12)
- Enrollment Associate III – Enrollment Services (2012-15)
- Manager – Enrollment Services (2015-18)
- Manager – Orientation and New Student Engagement (2018-present)
Baratono reports to HFC Assistant Director of Enrollment Services, Assessment, and Orientation Nikole Ford-Kondraciuk.
“Over the last two years, many different technologies have been introduced into my role to enhance the students’ experience and allow students to complete orientation on their own schedule. I continue to examine new ways to better support student success as they start HFC and throughout their first year,” said Baratono. “The most challenging aspect about my role at HFC is planning and anticipating students’ needs in future semesters because COVID-19 is changing the landscape. A truly exciting time filled with anticipation on where the path will take us. We are creating spaces in the HFC Student Services area that didn’t exist a few semesters ago.”
One of her proudest achievements at HFC was working on a business plan for a community theater and dance program as part of the Honors curriculum under the direction and guidance of HFC business instructor Corinne Asher. In 2007, this business plan became Creative Characters, a performing arts school that originally opened in Allen Park but is currently headquartered in Southgate. HFC music instructor Jeremy Palmer is the vocal director for musical theater productions at Creative Characters. The dance school’s classes are in collaboration with the Southgate Parks and Recreation Department.
“Creative Characters’ focus is to offer youth (ages 3 and up) the opportunity to belong to an organization that will build their confidence and knowledge of arts and culture,” said Baratono. “Offering classes in dance and theater, we are so proud of the many youth performers who have taken the stage over the last 15 years as their dance and theater talents grew along with their confidence.”
The joy of lifelong learning
“Kelly first volunteered in our office as an Honors student and has served in many roles at the College," said Ford-Kondraciuk. "She is a true Hawk through and through. Kelly has a passion for student success and creating systems and processes that work seamlessly for students. With her experience as a student and the in-depth research and training that she regularly participates in, Kelly is always ready to offer creative solutions. She is a highly regarded student affairs and business professional.”
Baratono believes in lifelong learning, applied in the real world.
“The joy of working with students to reach their life-changing goals is inspiring,” she said. “I still love the joy found in lifelong learning. There are always new policies, new technologies, and new areas to learn more about. I enjoy collaborating with so many other offices to solve problems, simplify processes, and communicate ideas. There is always something more to discover in a career in higher education!”