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Great Starts: Kelly Heniff ’19
Portrait of student Kelly Heniff

Great Starts: Kelly Heniff ’19

From time to time, we like to showcase a new SNC grad who’s entered the workplace or grad school. Success stories like these are pretty common. In fact, 95 percent of SNC's Class of 2022 alumni who responded to a survey said they were employed, in grad school or doing service work within nine months of graduating.

Hometown: Lombard, Ill.
Graduation year: 2019
Degree: Bachelor of Arts (education)
Plans after graduation: Kelly will join Teach for America in Summer 2019. 

You have some exciting plans after graduation ...

I’m going to be teaching middle-school math with Teach for America in Memphis! Teach for America is a program that places teachers in under-resourced school districts around the country, where they can work for educational equity. When I started at St. Norbert, I knew I wanted to teach, but a program like Teach for America wasn’t even on my radar.

What led you in that direction?

One of the reasons I chose St. Norbert was because of the variety of experiences I knew I could have here. One of those is the TRIPS program – a volunteer service opportunity. I did that in my sophomore year, student-teaching at St. Anthony’s in Milwaukee. I took another trip the following year to teach in Little Rock, Ark., and then another trip this year to St. Benedict’s in Chicago. Working in those environments really sparked my passion for bringing quality education to low-income populations.

I also received a lot of support and encouragement from Prof. Tynisha Meidl (Education). She is a Teach for America alumna herself, and she spoke to me often about how emotionally fulfilling and rewarding it was. Prof. Meidl also played a role in bringing me to St. Norbert in the first place: When I was looking at schools, I sat in on one of her classes, and I found it so interesting and inspiring that it really helped me make up my mind to come here.

Who else shaped your SNC experience?

Prof. Bola Delano-Oriaran (Education). I entered SNC as an elementary-education major, thinking I would also pursue a minor in math or French. As much as I loved French, I leaned toward math, because I didn’t see much opportunity to teach French at the elementary-school level. Prof. Delano-Oriaran was my advisor, and she challenged me, basically saying “Do both!” She helped me work out a path to incorporate French into my studies – even helping me create my own opportunity to student-teach in France, which I did. That was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I learned so much, not only about teaching but about my own ability to rise to challenges. Prof. Delano-Oriaran also helped me discover opportunities to teach at a bilingual French school in Chicago. She has always supported me, fought for me and mentored me when I needed it.

You also found time for athletics at SNC ...

Coach Don Augustine interviewed me for the track program when I was looking at colleges and helped persuade me to come here. I was able to compete on the women’s track team all four years. Track was a huge part of the joy I experienced at St. Norbert. The support I had from my teammates, the memorable experiences, the travel to new places for meets…

Any final thoughts?

I’m just happy that I was able to pursue my three passions at SNC – for teaching, for service and for track. I had a full plate, but it taught me a lot about time management!