Scripps First-Year President Turns Worldliness Into Optimism

Last fall, you would find Julia Kelly SC ’21 practicing Wolof, a Senegambian dialect, with her homestay family in Senegal. In the winter, you would find her volunteering with Muslim women in Morocco. This summer, she summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. And this Tuesday, Oct. 3, between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., she will be holding her first 'pop-in' session as Scripps College’s newly elected first-year class president in the Clark Residence Hall common room.  

Kelly, who hails from Denver, Colorado, arrived on Scripps campus eager to participate and take advantage of the resources available at Scripps and the Claremont Consortium after returning from her gap year. She credits her optimism to the attitude she acquired through the struggles and successes she had abroad in Senegal, Morocco, Canada, and Tanzania.

“I really believe that anyone can do anything; it’s just the attitude you have,” Kelly said. “I really wanted to develop the attitude during my gap year because I feel like there’s so much you can accomplish and do in college. I really want to take advantage of it all.”

Kelly recognized that her gap year was what ultimately led her to run for first-year president and what inspired part of her campaign’s foundation. One of the three major pillars from her campaign was to hold office hours in order to encourage an open dialogue between Scripps students, representatives, and the administration.

“I just want to get to know the students I will be representing and make new connections,” Kelly said. “I want to have an opportunity to listen to their issues, so I can understand the needs of the freshman class to the best of my ability.”

Kelly plans to hold her 'pop-in' sessions on a weekly basis, adding that popcorn will be supplied as a snack.

When commenting on Kelly, Annabel Walsh SC ’21 identified that Kelly’s office hours were a major motivator in earning her support for Kelly in the election.

“I thought it was a really original idea,” Walsh said. “It seemed like she was really friendly and that through these office hours, she would be really receptive to students and our ideas.”

Along with ‘binge-watching’ her favorite movies – “Casa Blanca,” “The Parent Trap,” “Legally Blonde” – and playing in Harvey Mudd College’s Bridge club, Kelly noted that she enjoys making friends and meeting new people. She emphasized the power of relationships and noted that her gap year emphasized how important a simple greeting may be to someone.

“There’s just so much you can learn from other people,” Kelly said.

Her eyes lit up as she shared her memory of a woman she used to greet every day on her walk home from school in Senegal. She shared a similar interaction she had with a man in Morocco from which she learned how meaningful greetings can be.  

“There was this man that I bought fabric from once, but he was on my walk home to my apartment there, so I would greet him every single day,” Kelly said. “He was this 70-year-old man, and we would just be so happy to see each other. It was actually insane how excited we would be to see each other each day.”

Kelly, who plans on double-majoring in Computer Science and Middle East North Africa Studies, hopes to return to Morocco one day in order to teach coding to women there.

“I fell in love with Morocco, and I just wanted to be there forever,” said Kelly, looking off into the distance as if combing through the memories. She added that she had become fascinated with the 'adhesive force' within Arab communities and found Arabic to be an enchanting language to read, write, and speak.

“A lot of really sacred languages have started to die out, but Arabic is still very much a prominent language,” said Kelly, explaining that due to its religious nature, it meant a great deal to Moroccan natives to see her expressing interest in their culture and language. “If you knew one word of Arabic, that meant so much to them. In an age when we have Google Translate and all of these tools and technologies to help us avoid learning a language, I think it’s especially important to do just that: learn languages.”

While Kelly’s love of language and meeting new people will certainly be woven into her platform as first-year class president, she emphasized that her main goal is to remain approachable and make everyone in the Scripps community feel supported.

“College is not easy,” Kelly said. “It’s hard, and there’s so much going on. There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, but if we help students, and make sure they know that they have a place here and that they are loved and supported, there’s nothing that they can’t do.”