2023 Rising Star Award
Junior League of Phoenix
This year’s Rising Star recipient, Kelly Larsen of the Junior League of Phoenix, Arizona, embodies the significant promise and untapped potential consistent with the vision and values of The Junior League Mission, and provides new leadership in what it means to be a Junior League civic leader.
For as long as she can remember, the Junior League has been a part of her life, which goes back to a legacy of strong women leaders: her grandmother who was in the League, and then her mom and aunt. She grew up with stories about their Junior League journeys. In 2019, Kelly was able to begin her own Junior League journey when she joined the Junior League of Phoenix (JLP). She has been a stand-out member from day one.
Kelly’s path has been through the “community impact” tenant of our Mission. Specifically, Kelly was actively involved as a key member of JLP’s signature program, HealthFest, from 2019 to 2022, leading the committee in the last year that she served on it. HealthFest has been a signature program of JLP since 2016 and was originally envisioned as a fun, community festival for health and wellness activities and education to families living in food desert pockets of the Phoenix metropolitan area. The program has steadily grown since its founding and, just as the program was hitting its stride, COVID happened. Kelly unquestionably led the program in its most trying times during the last three years due to the impacts of COVID. The event twice went to a hybrid format, limiting its original intended impact and scope. Still, HealthFest was able to create impact through innovative and safe approaches, such as making it a drive-thru event. As Chair, Kelly was able to stabilize HealthFest and our partnership with the City of Phoenix to set it up for success as she rolled off the committee. From there, she was asked to step up further in leadership.
Today, Kelly is JLP’s Vice President of Community as a third-year Active. In this role, she sits on the Management Team and is overseeing five committees including four community programs and our Volunteer Action (“Done in a Day”) Committee (these are further elaborated in the next question). Additionally, she serves as a key member on JLP’s Community Research & Development (CR&D) Subcommittee that is researching and finalizing new community partnerships under our new focus area of “Empowering Women & Girls” that will begin in June 2023.
The skills Kelly has learned as a Junior League Member have only emboldened her leadership abilities to make a stronger impact in the community. One of her many core values is giving back to the community through servant leadership. She practices this daily through her profession as a public school psychologist and, beyond that, as a mom to son Garrett. As a psychologist, Kelly speaks daily to students – many of whom are young women – who come into her office where she mentors them through intentional and thoughtful conversations to be leaders in their school. She is also a mentor and trusted confidante to her colleagues and new school psychologists. As mom to Garrett, she is raising him to be a young man and showing him examples of practicing kindness and empathy through service to others. She is often right by Garrett’s side at his events and encouraging his involvement in Boys Team Charity and National Junior Honor Society. Junior League has given her a platform to practice and further refine her leadership skills. Reflecting on how she gives her time through service, she said: “It teaches about other communities and provides a broader knowledge of the world while instilling compassion.”
Through her involvement, she has seen and been a part of collaboration at the highest level, helping members come together toward a common goal. Specifically, reflecting on her involvement on CR&D, she said being in the company of other phenomenal women as we shift our focus area has changed her as a leader. “There are a lot of people who are doing – or who want to do – the same thing in our new focus area. How do we bring these people together to increase the impact?” she said. Kelly is also an observer and learner, constantly growing in her own leadership. “No matter what meeting I’m in, I learn something new. I meet someone new. I’m constantly reminded of purpose and mission.”
Within the JLP, Kelly is an ever-present positive force. She always has a smile on her face and warm encouragement for other members. Kelly has already made a tremendous impact on both the Junior League of Phoenix and our community. A rising star in JLP, she will surely be looked upon for continued and greater leadership roles in our organization and the community.