Of all the Heathwood alumni who have come back to campus as teachers or staff members, Kelly Turbeville probably holds the record for the fastest return. After graduating from Heathwood in 2013, Kelly completed her degree in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education from Brevard College in just three-and-a-half years and officially began her new role as Associate Director of the PEAK outdoor leadership program just a few weeks later.
Hiring Kelly was an easy decision, says PEAK Director Stan Wood, who worked with her during her four years in the Upper School’s Peak Student Leadership program: “Kelly fully invested in the PEAK and PSL programs while she was a student here, so she inherently understands the goals and objectives, as well as the benefits it offers our students and community. That plus her major in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education make her a natural fit. However, what has been really great to see is the rapport she’s developed with our students in such a very short time. She will be a tremendous asset to the school and to the PEAK program. “
Here, Kelly talks about what brought her back to Heathwood and to PEAK, and what excites her about the future of the program.
You attended Heathwood from 6th-12th grade. What role did the PEAK program play in your experience as a student here?
I discovered the PEAK program on the 8th grade trip. That was the first year the 8th graders took a backpacking trip through PEAK. We went up to the Brevard area and did a lot of hiking, and it was raining most of the time, but I loved it. That experience opened up a whole new door for me, so I decided to become a PEAK Student Leader.
So what was your PEAK Student Leader experience like?
PSLs help out with all aspects of the program. You’re showing people what to do and helping them do it. I was a very quiet kid. You couldn’t get me to raise my voice in class, much less talk to a group. But as a PSL, it was different. I had a passion for what we were doing, and once I realized that I was good at it, and I’d had some success assisting other student leaders, I became a lot more comfortable not just speaking out but also stepping into a leadership role. As a PSL, sometimes I had to lead groups of up to 60 people. That would have been unimaginable in another context. So it helped me get over my quietness and not be afraid to speak up, and I found my voice in other things as well, like soccer and my classes.
Speaking of soccer, you played on a Heathwood team that won the 2013 state championship and then you went on to play at Brevard. How did your Heathwood experience prepare you for life as a college student-athlete?
First of all, Heathwood does an amazing job of getting you ready for college, period. A lot of what we did in my freshman year at Brevard, I had already learned. My paper-writing was way ahead of the game. And I knew how to manage my work and my time. Heathwood does a good job of teaching that and of letting you know you have to get your school work done no matter what else you’re involved in.
Heathwood’s athletics program was also great about helping me learn to balance academics and athletics. I played soccer, golf, and basketball here, as well as club soccer, so that kept me busy after school, but all my coaches were so supportive of everything I was doing. They always made sure we got our school work done, and they knew what was going on in our lives. That’s what made it possible for me to be a PEAK Student Leader and play sports year-round.
So what brought you back to Heathwood and to the PEAK program?
Stan Wood reached out to me last spring about doing a summer internship with the PEAK program. He’d just learned that Kristy Gutierrez, who had this position at the time, was leaving, and when he found out I was graduating in December, he asked if I’d be interested in the job.
It was really always a dream of mine to work in the PEAK program, because without it, I wouldn’t have known I had the interests that I do. But I didn’t know if it could really happen, and I certainly didn’t know it could happen this fast.
What, in a nutshell, is your job description?
During the school day, I teach 3rd-8th grade Outdoor Education. That involves going over safety information and making sure everyone understands the rules, then doing things like climbing the Alpine Tower and canoeing in the pond. After school, we do a lot of those same activities with various age groups. Then, on the weekends, we hold a lot of corporate events, usually working with adults.
And what do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I am really into skydiving. I’ve been on several different kinds of jumps, and am going to get my license soon.
What are your main goals, for yourself in your new role, and for the PEAK program?
Our goals for the program include expanding it to create more opportunities for students to experience the outdoors in all kinds of ways. We’re especially interested in creating more opportunities for middle schoolers, both after school and through travel programs like the Tsali Adventure week we’re offering for rising 7th and 8th graders this summer.
My personal goal is to get people as excited about PEAK as I was when I discovered it. There are so many great things you can do, and they can change your life.