Alumnae Interviews: Jennifer Kelly

Kathleen Ott de Vries '23 and Ava Breault '242

Jennifer Williams (now Kelly) first entered the Academy of Saint Elizabeth in 1984 as a freshman. She was already very familiar with the Academy as two of her sisters had already gone to the Academy and graduated, and one sister, Carolyn, was a sophomore at the time. Mrs. Kelly was the fourth youngest of five sisters. All of whom went to the Academy, making her family the second largest to ever attend the school. 

When she arrived, Mrs. Kelly made friends very quickly and hit it off with the girl whose locker was next to hers. “I feel like the environment was very warm and friendly, just like it is today…”She described her favorite part of being at the Academy was playing sports with her friends. Mrs. Kelly played many sports including field hockey, volleyball, track, and lacrosse. “I never planned what sports I was going to play…I just played all the sports my friends played.” Her favorite teacher Ms. O’Rourke was in fact the coach of many of the sports Mrs. Kelly played; she also taught Mrs. Kelly’s favorite class during her time at the Academy, a class called Current World. In this class, they would read the Time Magazine from cover-to-cover and talk about it. “Ms. O’Rourke would just call out your last name. It was never Jennifer, it was just ‘Williams!’…you would never fall asleep in that class!” Because class sizes were small and that Ms. O’Rourke was a coach for many sports, Mrs. Kelly and her friends fostered a close relationship with her. 

When asked what was her favorite tradition at the Academy, Mrs. Kelly described a tradition done before she entered the school. Her sister Mary, class of 81’, attended this event with her. In this old tradition, you were allowed to bring a younger sibling or a child that you know to the Academy for the last day of school right before Christmas vacation. Mrs. Kelly attended this with her sister, Mary, and remembers: “They had the school decorated beautifully…and I remember going to the gym to play games, we sang songs, we listened to stories, we ate sweets…it was just very magical and festive and I still remember that.”

Mrs. Kelly graduated from the Academy in 1988. “The Academy of Saint Elizabeth helped me become a more confident person and helped me find my voice in college.”She went on to study at St. Bonaventure University and majored in elementary education. After college, she worked as a teacher of first and second grade for 12 years. 

Currently, Mrs. Kelly is a stay-at-home mom, but says one day that she will go back to school and teach again. Mrs. Kelly was and still is close to her friends that she made at the Academy. Over the course of the pandemic, she had a Zoom call with all of them. However, Mrs. Kelly’s closest friend remains her lockermate, the girl she first met on the first day of school of freshman year. “She’s that friend I will call when I’m doing my daily walk…and I can ask her anything and we are very close.” This close friend is actually the reason Mrs. Kelly met her husband. Mrs. Kelly was the maid-of-honor at this friend’s wedding located in the Holy Family Chapel, and this wedding was where she met her future husband. When asked what would be one thing she would say about the school, Mrs. Kelly replied: “When you walk into St Elizabeth’s I still walk in with that same comfortable feeling…and I hope that they are able to continue that feeling year after year…It’s a very special place at Saint Elizabeth’s…”