“The afterschool community in Rhode Island has made a collective push to be taken more seriously: better communicating with districts about being a resource to help bolster student achievement and producing outcomes, better evaluating our programs and using data, etc. I think in a few years the afterschool field will have made some great accomplishments and contributions to education.” – Kelly Whaley
ACCOLADES FROM THE FIELD
“Kelly Whaley is a true champion of expanded learning opportunities for children and youth. She has an enormous capacity for determination and drive to develop and implement new approaches to program design that engage students in their own learning. I know Kelly has faced challenges along the way, and yet she approaches these potential barriers with grace and creativity to make sure the programs that she manages are high-quality, responsive to kids and families, and linked to student learning. Kelly seems to work magic at building partnerships to ensure that community resources and expertise are put to work in the best interest of student learning that is experiential, hands-on, and fun!” – Jackie Ascrizzi, Rhode Island Department of Education
“Kelly is hard working and dedicated. Her ability to work well in the community has proven to be a success with the partnership with the YMCA for afterschool and summer programming. She has worked in collaboration with many city partners to develop Camp XL and address the issues of summer learning loss. As her YMCA partner I am truly excited about working again with Kelly to put forth a well-rounded and fun Camp XL this summer.” – Lisa Kennedy, Cranston YMCA
AN INTERVIEW WITH KELLY WHALEY
What brought you to the afterschool field?
Before working in the afterschool field, I was fundraising for nonprofits in Rhode Island. While I enjoyed what I was doing, I was hoping to work more directly in programming and connect more with the community I was working with. I also always enjoyed working with youth and had volunteered with the RI Mentoring Partnership. So, when I was offered the opportunity to work at the Cranston Community Learning Center it was kismet. It was a perfect fusion of what I had been doing to date, but also, would allow me to work with youth on a daily basis, which is what I enjoy most!
Who are the teachers, mentors, or heroes that shaped your career and guided your practice or principles?
Mr. Miller, my high school English teacher, was my first and only real mentor growing up. I would have to see him after school to ask questions about schoolwork and he always used that time as an opportunity to talk with me about college, inquire about what I wanted to major in, offer advice about classes to enroll in and internships to look for, etc. I didn’t realize it at the time but he was really helping me think through an important time in my life. I will always remember him for that reason and I hope I can return the favor by, hopefully, being the same kind of resource for students in my programs.
What makes Rhode Island a compelling place to work in afterschool?
Being so small, the afterschool community is pretty close-knit. One of the advantages of this is that we all seem to work together pretty well: helping each other trouble-shoot, collaborating, sharing resources, etc.
But, one of the greatest things I have seen is that we all rally around the same issues. The afterschool community in Rhode Island has made a collective push to be taken more seriously: better communicating with districts about being a resource to help bolster student achievement, producing outcomes, better evaluating our programs, using data, etc. I think in a few years the afterschool field will have made some great accomplishments and contributions to education. So, being in this field now and working on these kinds of initiatives is very exciting.
What is your ultimate dream for afterschool in Rhode Island and beyond?
My hope would be that afterschool (for lack of a way to say this better) is taken more seriously. I think afterschool and all out-of-school time programming (summer too!) can be used in a real way to align with educational goals and also provide supports and resources for students outside of the classroom. Like I said, it’s an exciting time because we are making a push in this direction. I think, in a few years, we’ll look back and see how far we’ve come.