January is National Mentoring Month and to celebrate we would like to introduce one of our wonderful mentors, Kelley Ort. She is Nealand’s mentor and has been a member of our Program Committee for 3 years.
Tracy: Where did you grow up? If you did not grow up in Denver, how did you end up in Denver?
Kelley: I was born in Dover, Delaware but grew up all over – the result of being an Air Force ‘brat’. My Dad retired when I was in 7th grade and we moved to Albany, Georgia, which is where my Mom’s family was. As an adult, I have also moved a lot for career opportunities – we lived in Atlanta twice, Morristown (NJ), Louisville (KY), St. Louis, and then Denver. The move to Denver was meant to be a temporary, 2- year assignment but we have been here ten years (previously, I had never lived anywhere for more than 5 years). We finished raising our sons here, sent them to Regis Jesuit High School and they are in college here. I think it is unlikely that we will leave this area.
Tracy: What other causes are you involved in within the community?
Kelley: While my boys were at home I did a lot of volunteer work that was relevant to what they were doing. I held many positions in the PTO’s of their schools, serving as Treasurer, Fundraising VP and President. When they were at Regis I chaired committees for Lark, the annual fund-raising event, and that is also when I got involved with BHGH. More recently, I have been working with ACCION, a micro-lending organization that has come to Colorado to help small businesses get start-up and expansion loans.
Tracy: Why do you care about kids and education?
Kelley: Education is definitely important for the reason most people think about – it expands personal opportunities. A commonly quoted statistic,
that has been attributed to the College Board, is that a person with a college education, on average, will be able to make up to 80% more money in a lifetime (usually well over $1Million) than a person with only a high school education. That alone is a good enough reason. In addition, the value to our society is huge as well. An educated society brings benefits to everyone. It is common to see higher rates of volunteering, voting and donating blood correspond to higher levels of education. It is also true that higher levels of education lead to lower unemployment and poverty rates, which affects our entire community. Everyone benefits from helping today’s students go further in school.
Tracy: If you could give the scholars one piece of advice about growing up
and being a successful college graduate, what would you tell them?
Kelley: I think that the most important part of being successful is to realize that success is not a destination, but a journey. You must be committed to the journey. Make the decision to do your best every day – in elementary and high school, in college, in your job, in your relationships, in your community. Adjust when necessary, but stay committed to the journey.
Tracy: What’s your favorite part of being involved with BHGH?
Kelley: Most of my volunteer work has been in larger organizations. While it’s nice to feel like you are doing something that helps a lot of people at once, it is sometimes hard to see what the long-term impact is on the community and any of the individuals. With BHGH it is possible to see young lives changed.
Tracy: If you could tell the whole world why BHGH is important, what would
Kelley: I love that BHGH offers educational opportunities in an environment where religion and family values are also modeled. BHGH is a very well-rounded place for kids!