One of the biggest challenges facing people who work in the nonprofit sector is time. There’s never enough of it – time to care for volunteers and those we serve, time to make programs even better than they were last year, time to balance work, service, and life.
Kelsey Waros isn’t a stranger to the never-ending time crunch, but for her, entering into that crunch is a carefully considered choice. Between her work with Strong Women, Strong Girls Pittsburgh, earning her master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh, and piloting a cultural immersion project in Uganda, moments to simply take a breath are welcome and rare. And yet, it’s all worth it.
“Growing up, I never thought I’d end up working with youth and education. But the careful choices I’ve made led me [to SWSG], and it’s such a natural fit. I’m lucky that I’m able to be so creative and passionate about my work,” said Kelsey. “I love working with the mentors and the girls, and having the privilege be an influence in their life is so special to me.”
Kelsey graduated from Clarion University with a degree in strategic communications, but she quickly changed paths to work with nonprofit and community development organizations all around the city of Pittsburgh. Eventually, she found herself working with AmeriCorps KEYS, a service coalition focusing on youth development and empowerment. After a series of roles working with youth in after-school and community settings, Kelsey eventually found SWSG, which combined her love of working with kids with her deeply held passion for supporting women.
“I’m drawn here because for me, it’s where passion meets purpose. I’ve worked with young girls in the past who didn’t have someone to look up to or to talk to,” said Kelsey. “They may have a support system at home, but they don’t always have the toolkit necessary to navigate life as a young woman, which isn’t always easy. Exposing these young women to the tools necessary to overcome those barriers early and often is really important.”
As Program Coordinator at SWSG, Kelsey spends her days making our girl mentorship program happen. She’s at the core of delivering mentorship to more than 700 girls and guiding nearly 250 college volunteers to be empathetic and thriving mentors and young women. Not only is she committed to being on the ground with our girls and mentors, guiding and serving them, and making sure they have the tools they need to be successful, but she’s also integral to the forward movement of SWSG. She recognizes the need to plan strategically and examine the big picture of the organization at the same time that she’s tightening nuts and bolts.
Learning the theory behind sustaining nonprofit and community organizations is part of what drove Kelsey to go back to school in 2017 to earn a master’s degree in International Development with a concentration in Non-governmental Organizations, Civil Society, and Nonprofit Management.
“Continuing education is very important to me, and it’s always interesting to apply what you already know and learn how to fine-tune it,” said Kelsey. “Seeing everything that happens at SWSG and what it takes to make the wheel turn – I chose International Development because learning these highly transferable skills and applying them from a local to a global scale is really fascinating to me.”
Between her work at SWSG and her full course load, Kelsey has also started a brand new program at the University of Pittsburgh that will soon be turned into a class. Through the program, graduate students travel to Uganda on a cultural immersion trip and engage in service learning activities focused on marginalized and hidden peoples in the country. Many of the students are interested in working in the “third sector,” so the experience allows them to have a realistic idea of policies and barriers that people around the world are up against.
While she can’t know what’s next after earning her degree, Kelsey is sure she’ll keep doing the kind of work she does with SWSG. Not only has the organization made an impact on her, but she knows the SWSG team is making a difference.
“Our whole hearts are in this,” she said. “So our girls are in good hands.”