She’s Kelly Kenny, Oak Lawn High School’s College and Career Counselor and Service Learning Coordinator. Kenny helps students prepare for life after high school by organizing college visits, career exploration field trips, and service days. A self-proclaimed “foodie,” Kenny began her teaching career as a family and consumer science teacher. Today, Kenny loves to combine her love of food with her passion for travel. She and her husband Dan are huge fans of the TV show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and even plan their driving vacations around the show’s featured eateries.
Oak Lawn Patch: How did you become Oak Lawn’s College and Career Counselor/Service Learning Coordinator? Were you always interested in guidance counseling or did you previously teach?
Kenny: I have been at OLCHS for seven years. My first two years were spent in the classroom teaching Foods and Consumer Education as a Family and Consumer Science teacher. During that time I had already begun my master’s in school counseling, because that was the path I had wanted to take since beginning my undergraduate work in education. It was important to me to teach first, because I felt that having an understanding of what it takes to manage a classroom would make me a better counselor, and looking back I would agree that my teaching experiences have done that.
Oak Lawn Patch: Did you always know you wanted to be involved in education “when you grew up?”
Kenny: When I was growing up, and even still during my first year of college, I changed my mind about my career often. As a first year student at Bradley University, I was in a program called “academic exploration,” which is a fancy term for “undecided.” As a part of this program we took a class that introduced us to possible majors at the university. My parents would laugh every week when I would call home on Sunday night with a new major for the week.
Oak Lawn Patch: How long have you been working at Oak Lawn High School?
Kenny: This is my seventh year at Oak Lawn Community High School (two years as a teacher and five years in student services).
Oak Lawn Patch: As the college and career counselor/service learning coordinator, what are some of your daily responsibilities?
Kenny: Because I work with students in all grade levels on a number of different topics, there are no two days that are alike for me. In a most typical day, I will talk with students about where to earn their required service hours, I coordinate details for college and career field trips, work with students on Career Cruising (a web-based career exploration program), assist with scholarship searches and FAFSA completion, help with college applications, and have also worked with students on developing their resume and practicing for a job interview.
Oak Lawn Patch: Aside from your daily tasks, what projects and/or activities do you organize to help your students with their post-high school plans?
Kenny: The best parts of my job at OLCHS are the field trips that I coordinate (and get to participate in myself). I offer at least three field trips each month: one career exploration field trip, one college campus visit, and one service trip. The career exploration trips are a great opportunity for students to see what a college major can translate into, and the day-to-day work involved in those jobs. The college visits give students an opportunity to tour a campus, see a dorm room, and try the food before making their final decision about where to enroll.
Oak Lawn Patch: Has it become more difficult to acquire funding given the current economic crisis at both the state and national level? How has your approach changed, if at all?
Kenny: Funding is difficult for everyone at this point . . . many state initiatives that many schools use each year have been cut, thus forcing families to look elsewhere for funding or rearrange their budgets. Either way, things are difficult.
In terms of scholarships, I have seen some colleges offer new, creative scholarships to help students and families afford to attend. Unfortunately, some of the private scholarship amounts have decreased, but the student motivation to apply for any scholarship available to them is higher than ever.
Oak Lawn Patch: Your dedication to your students and the school is obvious, but what do you love most about your job?
Kenny: I love the level and the quality of student interactions I am afforded in my role at OLCHS. I have no door on my office, and there are always a few students in the College & Career Center during each period of the school day. While that might sound hectic to some, I enjoy the constant movement and the fact that the students know they have a place for “walk in” help. It is very inspiring and reassuring to hear these students talk about their future goals and plans; I feel very lucky to be a part of that process.
Oak Lawn Patch: What is a something that students probably would not know about you?
Kenny: Well, some students know, but many don’t believe I’m actually going to go through with it… on Monday, March 14 I will be joining 16 male staff members in shaving our heads for St. Baldricks!
Oak Lawn Patch: What songs would a person find under the “recently played” option on your IPod?
Kenny: This may come as a shock to many, but I don’t own an iPod. If you checked my Pandora account though, my stations include the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, The Giving Tree Band, Jack Johnson, The Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam. My favorite CDs are the soundtracks from the movies Across the Universe and I am Sam and I am a huge Beatles fan.