Scott Kelly first started volunteering at Shenandoah Elementary School more than 15 years ago for a simple reason: his wife, Dana.
The two were dating at the time and would get married soon after, in 2001.
“He would see me come home tired from work and would ask, ‘What can I do to help?’ ” Dana Kelly recalled.
As the technology coordinator at Shenandoah, she deals a lot with computer and technical issues. Scott Kelly’s day job is as a major sergeant working in telecommunications for the Louisiana Air National Guard based in Hammond. It was a natural fit.
Pretty soon, he was a regular at the Baton Rouge public school — fixing this, ironing out that.
“I’m her tech support,” he said.
“People think I know everything, but I just call him,” she said with a smile.
Over time, Scott Kelly has steadily added school duties as his readiness to help became clear. He reads to students, teaches lessons on citizenship, helps organize school events, helped set up and operate the school’s planetarium and trains the fifth-graders tasked with the honor of raising, lowering and properly handling the school’s U.S. flag.
Volunteers in Public Schools on Tuesday gave Scott Kelly its 2016 Crystal Apple, awarded to a standout person or organization volunteering in East Baton Rouge Parish’s public schools for at least 10 years. Kelly beat out two other veteran volunteers to win the coveted honor.
Although being attached to someone on the Shenandoah faculty is what brought him to the school, he’s found it brings with it its own satisfactions: “The kids, the smiles on their face. The pride they take when they see me in my uniform.”
Although he’s lived in Baton Rouge for almost 30 years, Scott Kelly grew up a military brat, traveling the world with his family, changing schools regularly.
He recalls being a Cub Scout but not in a stereotypical way. His father, who later retired as a colonel from the U.S. Air Force, was stationed in Naples, Italy. His troop would spend weekends camping out in an abandoned volcano.
A calling to the military came naturally, but he resisted for years, not joining the National Guard until he was 27 years old.
“I fought it,” he recalled. “My hair was long.”
He said his dad had soured on the military, failing to get a promotion he thought he deserved, and some of that bad feeling rubbed off on him. But after joining up, Scott Kelly quickly found himself at home and now is the epitome of spit and polish. He fretted Tuesday because he hasn’t had a haircut in two weeks, meaning his very close-cropped cut is a little longer than he likes.
He’s quick to sing the praises of the military life.
“We go to parties and he’ll recruit people,” Dana Kelly said.
At Shenandoah, the master sergeant routinely shows up in uniform, sometimes getting called “Army man,” though he works in a different branch of the service.
He travels routinely for duties and training opportunities. He has deployed before, including a 2011 stint in Afghanistan.
Shenandoah students dutifully hand-wrote letters overseas to Master Sgt. Kelly.
“I replied to every one,” he said.
Volunteers in Public Schools also awarded Golden Apple honors Tuesday to the following individuals: Leroy Harrison, Jr., who volunteers at Ryan Elementary; Dustin LaFont, whose bike shop volunteers with several schools including Glasgow and Westdale middle schools; Jo Ann Ponville, organizes volunteers at Sharon Hills Elementary; and Sassy Wheeler, an LSU professor who has her students volunteer at Bernard Terrace, Buchanan, Dufrocq, Southdowns and Westdale Heights elementary schools.
To sign up as a volunteer through VIPS, visit vipsbr.org or call (225) 226-4702.