Kelli Nielsen: 30
Lead Interventionist, Springfield Academy Middle School
There is nothing Kelli Nielsen enjoys more than immersing herself in a challenging environment and making a difference.
“My favorite quote is ‘the heart is what makes it great,’” said Nielsen, who is passionate about travel, working with students, and community service. She is lead interventionist at Springfield Academy Middle School and has been moved to progressively more difficult classrooms due to her ability to reach students labeled ‘unteachable’ in a mainstream environment.
“The ones who present the most difficult challenges are the ones who need the most support,” she said, adding that she helped change the environment to a place focused on academics rather than behavioral issues. “The students my team works with have a lot of social and emotional needs. But I love working with this population and have grown along with them. If I could, I’d like to get them out into the world to do community service, because being able to step outside of your environment is an incredible experience.”
It’s something she has done with students at her alma mater, Westfield State University. Nielsen recently co-instructed a Westfield State Global Service Learning Class in Nicaragua where students built a technology classroom in a destitute area in a week. And in 2007, she served as chaperone to university students who helped rebuild a musicians’ village in New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity. “The growth our teams experienced is immeasurable,” she said.
She is also chair of the Membership and Diversity Committee at Westfield State, and the youngest president-elect of the 37,000-member alumni organization. Nielsen served as site coordinator for the Assoc. of College and University Housing Officers International study tour of campuses in New England and Montreal, is a volunteer at the Westfield Soup Kitchen, serves as an aide to the Westfield’s Business Improvement District coordinator, and was progressively promoted at Brantwood Camp for Girls in New Hampshire, where she helped facilitate a creative learning environment.
“Working with a group of students and seeing them learn and grow really motivates me,” she said.
— Kathleen Mitchell