Alumni Spotlight: Anna Richards Kelly

Anna Richards Kelly was 15 when she applied to be part of VOX’s Teen Olympic News Bureau Summer Program in 1996.

Unfortunately, the Norcross teen wasn’t selected for an interview.

This would prove to be the only role at VOX that Anna failed to hold.

When then-Executive Director Rachel Alterman Wallack broke the news to Anna that she wouldn’t get an interview, she invited her to join VOX’s teen staff for the 1996-97 school year.

“It felt a little bit good, but a little bit crappy,” Anna remembered with a smile.

Despite her disappointment in not being selected to cover the Olympic Games, Anna accepted the teen staff invitation. She then went on to be a teen member of the VOX Board, a college intern, an adult member of the VOX Board and a member of VOX’s adult staff as VOX’s associate director.  She’s also been a donor since she was 16.

“Anna has contributed to VOX in every way a person can,” Rachel said, noting that Anna is the only person in VOX’s history to occupy all of these roles.

Within Anna’s first six months at VOX, she joined the Board of Directors and never looked back as a leader within the organization.

“She was a very confident teen, willing and able to present her viewpoint even if she disagreed with the adults in the room,” recalled Gary Dresser, who was VOX’s Board Chair when Anna joined.

Rachel remembers Anna’s confidence, but also her struggle as a straight-A student who wasn’t used to going through an editing process in her writing.

But through their work together, Rachel said Anna embraced that challenge and created some amazing stories, including a piece on her parents’ divorce, the connectivity of our city, and her final story for VOX on the death of her history teacher and friend, Phillip Rau III.

“My writing improved greatly,” Anna remembered. “Rachel taught me more of the fundamentals than my English teacher did.”

Anna was also a page designer, helping teens learn graphic design tools and getting the VOX paper to press, and a peer workshop facilitator, volunteering with a few other VOX teens and Rachel on Saturday mornings to bring VOX’s leadership and writing program to teenage boys incarcerated in a local Youth Development Center.

After graduation, Anna moved to South Carolina to attend Furman University, but ended up returning to Atlanta and graduated from Emory University in 2002.

She worked as day manager at Eddie’s Attic for about eight months before joining Junior Achievement as the president’s assistant in 2003. In 2004, she found her way back to the VOX Board of Directors.

Then in 2005, she resigned from her Board role to take the Associate Director job at VOX, where she worked until August 2008. She then decided to start the process of becoming a nurse, as she was about to have her first daughter, Emma.

Anna is pretty humble about her time on VOX’s staff.

“I was not an expert at much, but I could figure stuff out,” she said.

It’s clear from Rachel’s words that Anna had a major impact as a member of the VOX day-to-day team.

“She helped VOX achieve a huge milestone with our move back to Peachtree Center in 2007, coordinating logistics of our build-out and move, and helped strengthen our infrastructure by creating an operations manual, technology inventory, and managing the migration of our database,” Rachel said.

This impact was never a surprise to Andy Sarvady, a former VOX Board Chair, who served with Anna during her teen years.

“What I never predicted was how her involvement with VOX would take so many forms,” Andy said. “It was so much fun having her on the board in high school but even more fun to walk into VOX years later and see her on staff, running meetings, taking calls, offering up her experience and unique perspective in so many ways.

“Many of us have hovered around the edges of VOX for years, contributing here and there. Yet I don’t know many who could say with complete authority that they literally grew up in the newsroom. Anna did; Anna wore so many VOX hats, she could open up a hat shop.”

Anna is now impacting the world as a nurse at Emory. She lives with her husband James and their two daughters – Emma and Rachel – in Brookhaven.

For Anna, VOX still provides today’s teens what she and her cohort of teens needed in the late ‘90s.

“It’s a place where kids can be met where they’re at, which is not true at school,” she said.