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Tales from the Tribe

Motherhood: The Family We Choose

by Campowerment Crew
 ∙ May 7 ∙ 4 Min Read

Not all mother/daughter relationships are bound by blood, marriage or family ties.  Strong bonds can form whenever we commit to being for each other, and embrace honesty and authenticity.  Even stronger bonds can form when we commit to paying it forward and sharing our gifts with those who seek our help.

Kelly Wall, 2x Campowerment camper and member of the Inner Circle (the digital core of our community) knows just how important it is to create meaningful mentor-mentee relationships, which she is careful to define:

“I believe a mentor is a partner involved in a relationship of equals.”

“More often than not, we tend to equate the concept of a mentor to that of a leader, a relationship where power is vested in the mentor, with the mentee fulfilling the role of student. I don’t subscribe to that definition,” Kelly told us. “A mentor does not lead, but helps others to find the leader within.”

She’s been doing just that for more than 30 years,  mentoring women in high school, college, and post-grad roles.  Kelly is a Judge in Philadelphia, a heavy-hitting role, and through a program called Leadership Academy, she mentors young, aspiring lawyers,  helping them reach their max potential.   

Kelly is an esteemed Judge, but swears you don’t need to know law, history, science or math to be a great mentor.  She insists you just have to care, and provide a sense of security to others that allows them to trust themselves, which is exactly what she decided to do for a young woman named Valentina.

Kelly met Valentina while she was a judge, but had previously worked as a solicitor for the Montgomery County Office of Children and Youth Protective Agency.  Kelly often thought about the harsh realties facing children in the foster care system once they turned 18. She said it really hit home for her when she was moving her own son into his college dorm.

“You spend weeks preparing because you are taking a bare dorm room and creating a home for your child: new pillows, towels and comforters; pots, pans and utensils. You spend hours getting everything moved in, setting up the computer and stocking the kitchen and bathroom with paper towels, toothpaste and pasta,” Kelly said.

“I cannot explain it, but I became obsessed with thinking about young people aging out of the foster care system who worked hard enough to go off to college. Who was stocking their kitchen and bathroom cabinets or setting up their computers? More importantly, who was they calling when they were scared or lonely, excited about a good test score, or sick and just wanting to hear comforting words?”

Kelly met Valentina at a fundraiser for an organization that provides foster care services where she was the speaker.   Valentina’s life as a child was tough; she was adopted from Russia and then subsequently abandoned  by her adoptive parents. She was then raised in the foster care system. Kelly was impressed with her work ethic and story and decided to introduce herself to the recent grad.

“I asked her whether she had anybody at her graduation. Valentina looked at me strangely and said no, she had nobody at her graduation.”

So Kelly became Valentina’s mentor, immediately sending her a box of graduation gifts, silly hats and signs.  Since meeting, Kelly has stepped in to fill the role of “mother,” which Valentina had never before experienced.  Kelly  takes her shopping and for pedicures; she is the voice at the other end of the phone whenever Valentina needs help or guidance.  Kelly is her voice of reason, and helps her find her own true self.  She is her cheerleader.

Kelly shared that “Valentina is graduating with her master’s degree soon, and we discussed the possibility of her continuing on to law school. I suggested she use her own experiences and how she overcame adversity in her law school application essay, but she refused for two reasons: she stated that there were people with much worse lives so she felt bad complaining, and she wanted to stand on her own merits and not have people feel sorry for her.  I am in awe of Valentina.  She is my hero, and I’ve grown to love and admire this incredible young woman.”

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