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After serving over 25 years in corporate roles at Xerox Corporation, and a brief stint at a non-profit, a love affair with history brought Celeste Walden-Kelley ’15 to major in the subject at Bloomfield College as an evening adult student.
The love affair soon extended to the entire Bloomfield community, where two of her children also attended and completed their programs of study at the alma mater she loves so dearly.
“Bloomfield has been a family affair,” said Walden-Kelley who has worked for more than 11 years in the College’s TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Program. “My son graduated in 2014. I graduated in 2015. And, my daughter completed her coursework for her teaching certification here. Words cannot describe how much I love this campus.”
Working full-time in a student support office at Bloomfield while studying to attain her history degree at the College often intermixed, said Walden-Kelley who had previously studied at Fairleigh Dickinson University and earned a two-year Business Management Certification from Cornell University. Her passion for history and enthusiasm for the transformative education Bloomfield provides is well known on campus.
“Studying history was my dream and I am living it at the College,” she says. “I am a card-carrying historical nerd—I love studying it. I have a passion for it, and I always tie it into what is going on. I get to use it when I mentor and tutor my students, as well as in my everyday life.”
“In my current Bloomfield role as Program Office Manager & Academic Coach, I help students with course selections, determining their major, and day to day problems they may have. It was the same when I was taking classes. My classmates looked to me for information since I knew a great deal from working at the College. I would help them with research and writing. And I would encourage them when they were struggling and tell them to not give up. Often, I would be struggling right along with them and I would tell them that if I can do it after so many years of being out of school, so can they,” she said.
As a member of the College’s SSS Program team, Walden-Kelley works closely with 160 first generation students, some with disabilities, on an annual basis to determine the academic support they may need. She also engages with faculty as, together, they discuss specific student challenges and how to best support them in completing the requirements of their degrees.
“When students returned to campus for in-person classes after the remote learning period that was required due to the pandemic, it was crucial that we were ready to provide additional, hands-on support. Many of our students needed to be re-socialized to succeed in their studies. Through our interactions, I would also determine if there was more they needed outside of our program, such as a referral to the counseling center or other services on campus.”
Walden-Kelley describes a multi-layered approach to TRIO SSS Program support that goes beyond academics. “I coach our students in understanding that everything they do has a multipurpose. This includes our ‘Dress for Success’ program that emphasizes that how they dress influences people’s perceptions of them, impacting their ability to attain that first job and for promotions once on the job.”
Commencement is the most fulfilling day each year for Walden-Kelley. “In our program, we often have students who start out with very low GPAs and, as they experience incremental measures of success, they become more confident. To see them grow is the most rewarding thing. Every year at graduation, I’m an emotional mess! I tell our students that they may start as coal, but at the end they are diamonds.”
Walden-Kelly is also an active member of the Bloomfield College Alumni Association which under new leadership is engaging current students in career readiness programming. As a member of The Company @ Bloomfield College, Bloomfield’s theater group, Walden-Kelley had the opportunity to perform a scene from “For Colored Girls” at the inauguration of Bloomfield College President Marcheta P. Evans, Ph.D. “This is just another wonderful memory I will always cherish,” she said.