At a small table near the large library window at Josiah Quincy Elementary School, mentor Kelsey Welsh sits quietly with third grade students Anson and Kat. “I like to sit over in the sunlit area,” says Kelsey. “It’s less distracting.”
Distraction is all but an inevitability for third-grade students — but that’s one of the reasons Kelsey has been matched to work with Kat and Anson. Kelsey spends an hour a week with the pair as part of our Accelerate program — something she’s been doing every week for the last three years — to provide them with the extra support they need to thrive.
Like most days, the trio are working in the library where they’ll read together or practice for spelling tests. “There are classes coming in and out so it can be hard to keep their attention sometimes, but we always come into the library,” explains Kelsey. “I think it’s nice for them to get a little separation from class.”
One of the most valuable aspects of their mentorship is its reliability. Kelsey has been a consistent mentor to Kat and Anson and she’s built a relationship of trust with the students. “They know the routine and what they’re working on,” says Kelsey. “They see me walk in and immediately start getting their stuff together because they know Miss Kelsey is here.”
Today, the third-graders are working on an origami activity which is proving more challenging than expected. But having Kelsey there helps to keep Anson and Kat focused. As Kelsey and the students shape paper animals, the parallel between origami and mentoring becomes clear. Both require great patience, concentration, and practice — but the results are always worth the effort.
In her three years of mentoring, Kelsey has seen how quickly children can grow, both personally and academically. “Originally, I started working with Kat in first grade,” explains Kelsey. About a month into the match, Kat’s teacher asked if she’d be willing to work with another student: Anson. Soon they realized Kat and Anson made a wonderful pair.
“Essentially what I learned is that they both needed support but in different areas,” explains Kelsey. “Kat is incredibly shy – with her it was confidence. Anson is super outgoing – he has all the confidence but needed more academic assistance.”
By helping the third-graders recognize their differing personalities, learning styles, and needs, Kelsey showed them that they could be a valuable complement to each other.
“They are drastically better with the way that they write. Their reading comprehension is much better. But I have seen them grow a lot just on a personal level because they are very supportive of each other. I’ve taught them that if one is struggling not to say ‘that’s easy’ because it may not be easy for someone else. I will always remember the little things like when one of them has a breakdown and the other picks them up – that has always been really special.”
As Anson and Kat arrange the final folds of their origami birds, Kelsey prepares to say goodbye for the day. After the mentoring session concludes, she’ll head back to ownerIQ , a media technology company headquartered in downtown Boston where she works as Creative Director.
The time Kelsey spends at Quincy Elementary may only make up a small part of her week, but the students stay on her mind long after she’s left the building. In fact, the first thing she’ll see when she gets back to her desk are the framed photos of Kat and Anson she keeps there.
“They made me this frame of little polaroids — like a marquee sign that they decorated with all these jewels. I have all of these pictures that they’ve drawn me during the time I’ve mentored them. When I got married, they gave me wedding cards. It’s really cute because we have a real relationship as much as we’re able to. They’re in such an important developmental stage in learning who they are in their own identities, so we can grow together in that sense. The wedding cards are still on our fridge!”
Kelsey isn’t shy about telling her colleagues where she’s headed when she leaves the office each week. At this point, she thinks the entire ownerIQ staff knows that she’ll be away from her desk to mentor.
“I facilitate a lot of volunteering for our office. I consider volunteering a part of who I am — I’m incredibly passionate about giving back to my community and doing my part. I share stories and tell colleagues they should mentor because it’s really rewarding. It’s really the best part of my week.”
While Kelsey acknowledges that it may not be easy for everyone to step away from the office during the day, she continues to encourage people to make the time.
“I know there’s so much going on at work, but I think it’s a refresh during a long or hard week when you feel so done. It can be a lot, but I never want to give up these hours I have with them. It’s more than worth it because they look forward to our time. The joy comes from being able to see them every week — seeing them so happy that I’m here. It’s nice to know that they really rely on seeing me – no matter what I have going on that’s always worth it to me.”