“It started out simple enough: Crystal Dekker, marketing administrator at Van Horn Automotive Group, was asked to fill in for a colleague at the Sheboygan County Chamber’s recent Beer & Brainstorming session.
“I knew nothing about it,” Dekker said. “But I went, had a blast and ended up attending a Chamber ‘Business After Hours’ event and becoming one of their ambassadors.”
Dekker’s spontaneity and willingness to immerse herself in the community are key in a career dedicated to nurturing connections. She plays a large role in administering Van Horn’s philanthropic goals, including supporting community outreach initiatives, sponsoring Chamber, Coastal and other organizations’ events, and donating generously to local groups.
Coastal Young Professionals Network is the Sheboygan County of Chamber of Commerce’s group with more than 700 members, serving as a connection for the county’s young professionals.
“Our workforce consists of many young professionals,” Dekker said. “Coastal’s events expand our opportunities by providing options to network, connect and share ideas, which really helps my career.”
In mid-May, Dekker graduated from Lakeshore Technical College with an associate’s degree in marketing, along with earning presidential honors. It’s an accomplishment that, a few years earlier, she never imagined achieving.
“I grew up in Sheboygan, but I moved to Las Vegas in my mid-20s,” she said. “That time let me learn what I love about myself: public relations and marketing.”
A few years later, she returned to town, energized by the possibilities of doors opening as she pursued her education. And like many others returning to school, she faced challenges: studying around a full work schedule and caring for her grandparents made the months fly by.
“My grandparents helped when I was younger, and now they need my help,” she said. “I really enjoy spending time with them.”
As her education progressed, Dekker pondered future employment. When she learned that Van Horn sought a marketing administrator, she applied, even though she had a semester remaining.
“I had already taken all my marketing classes, so I was prepared,” she said.
Last November, Dekker hit the ground running. Her days at Van Horn are packed with seeking community sponsorship opportunities, being the face of Van Horn at Coastal events, supporting local youth sporting teams, and focusing on the occasional project that calls out.
A week before Christmas last year, Dekker learned that a local family needed gifts. She rallied the Van Horn employees and within days, drove a van brimming with presents to Safe Harbor.
“You know how they say ‘be the change you want to see’? Well, I get paid to be the change,” Dekker said. “I was not aware of the emotional rewards this job would bring when I took it.”
Now that she’s completed her degree, Dekker spends her free time doing dinner-and-movie nights with friends, catching up on favorite movies and taking yoga classes – another thing she never thought she’d do.
With a clear and relaxed mind, Dekker is looking at another goal: returning to college to earn her bachelor’s degree.
“I know – it’s nuts,” she laughed. “But earning this degree was so worth it. I’ve learned my place in the community and the positive direction I can take my career through belonging and networking.”