We had the good fortune of connecting with Katherine Elizabeth Long and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katherine Elizabeth, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
Being near the water, time and activities with family and friends, the outdoors, and travel and exploration. However, most of all, and like everyone, purpose makes me happy. My purpose is around youth advocacy, empowerment, and education.
That purpose makes me happy because children are our future and are the less hardened versions of ourselves. Seeing youth thrive and experience new destinations, new experiences, new perspectives, and new interactions is priceless and leaves me smiling. They keep life in perspective and remind us to keep things simple, honest, and open.
We have the opportunity to cultivate healthy, empathetic, well-rounded, and educated youth and provide them with the tools to unlock their full potential and create a happier, healthier, and more compassionate, and sustainable society. That is what I strive to do with ExploringPaths.org, our web, and mobile applications, as well as our Gratitude Journals/Workbooks and Curriculum.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Exploring Paths is a multi-venture business that started in 2013 as a mentorship program partnered with the YMCA and Citibike to help youth move past their four-block by four-block radius. In 2020 I added a technology platform to aid the Y in expansion, and in 2021 after seeing the impacts of COVID on youth, a publishing arm for educational curriculum, all to help them reach their full potential through gratitude, visioning, goal-setting, and exploration.
I’m most proud of the partnerships I’ve built, the students we’ve worked with, most recently, the workbooks and curriculum, and my drive to keep going. It’s been a circuitous route with a lot of bumps along the way to get to this point and had you told me way back when I would have ended up in this position, I’m not sure I would have believed you.
I grew up in Del Rio, Texas, a small town on the US/Mexico border. During the school year, I was there with time in the summer spent in Southern Louisiana and New Orleans with my mom’s family. My parents always encouraged us to try new things, travel and explore, be grateful for all that we had, and pay everything forward.
Having been an athletic trainer in high school, I applied to TCU to study Athletic Training. Upon graduation, I deferred TCU for a year to accept a scholarship from the Congress-Bundestag to spend a year in Germany living with a host family, going to school, and interning with a member of Parliament. That year changed the course of my life.
I came back to TCU to study Political Science and minor in German; I spent a semester abroad interning in London, came back, and worked as a caseworker for Refugee Services of North Texas and for Catholic Charities. I was determined to get back to London and wanted to go into work for NGOs. I found a Master’s program at LSE for what was basically non-profit management, applied, was accepted, and headed to London after graduation.
Usually, one would have continued on the path they set, though I began doing German translations for a technology company back in Ft. Worth called Handango during my time in grad school. That work sparked curiosity and an 18-year career in technology, working for startups and publicly traded companies.
My passion for working with youth always persisted, and I volunteered for years with youth-focused organizations until a friend took me cycling and exploring paths throughout NYC. A colleague suggested I start my own company… Exploring Paths instantly came to mind as a way to come full circle with my work prior to technology. I bought the domain, wrote up a business plan passed around, and ultimately led me to a partnership with the YMCA and CitiBike.
Exploring Paths remained a passion and a side project until April/May of 2020. It has been one of the most challenging adventures in my life, with highs and lows, though I enjoy almost every minute of it.
If people gather anything from my story or my brand, I hope it is to; remain curious, believe in yourself and opportunity, focus on the positives as it will draw more positives, follow your passions, take chances, and know that failures mean learning and growth that eventually lead to success.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
While I currently live in East Hampton, NY, visiting DFW is an annual trip for me to work and visit friends. There are so many places that I love to go.
Mi Cocina is generally one of my first stops for their margaritas, enchiladas, and tamales, along with Joe T’s and Campisi’s (funny story: in 2000, I ended up randomly standing in line for and racing nuns with a member of their family to get seats at Midnight Mass at The Vatican, small world and we made it pretty close to the front, no nuns were harmed:)).
Eatzi’s and Bonnell’s are also on the list, and for BBQ, it’s Smokey John’s for the brisket and Lockhart Smokehouse for the sausage.
When it comes to neighborhoods and the arts: Sundance Square in Fort Worth and Deep Ellum in Dallas have been two of my favorite areas since college; the local art museums like the world-renowned Kimbell Museum are fantastic; the 6th Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas is a must-visit, catch some fabulous performances at Bass Hall and Theatre Three, and anything TCU should be on the list:) (football, basketball, baseball, the orchestra or theatre on campus are all solid options).
And to round out a trip… Cocktails at Reata’s Rooftop are a must, or I love the live jazz at The Library in the Warwick Hotel; their cocktails are the best in the city.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am where I am and have done what I’ve done because of everyone in my life.
To my family, my host family and classmates in Germany, my Masonic family, Father Larroque, all of my friends, teachers, counselors, professors, and mentors who have been there with words of wisdom, support, hugs and encouragement.
To Catholic Charities and Refugee Services of North Texas in Ft. Worth, to Randy Eisenman who gave me my start in technology at Handango.
To TCU, LSE, To Make a Wish, Angela and Global Language Project, and New Alternatives for Children, to the friend who showed me the bike paths in NYC and the colleague who pushed me to start my own thing.
To SACCNY, Kristina, and all of our mentors and my fellow mentees in Stockholm.
To Team Cindy, Cindy, Elaine and Lauren Sherwin, to Dr Edward Merker, Dr. Banks, Dr. Stemmer, the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, and Dr. Riew who are all why I’m still here to tell my story.
To the Chinatown YMCA in NYC and their staff, EP’s mentors and volunteers
And most importantly to all of our students.