Meg Kelly

Space to Grow Director

About Meg

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Education: BA in Urban and Environmental Affairs, Marquette University | Masters of Urban Planning (MUP) from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Hobbies: I spend a lot of time with my family. I have 10 nieces and nephews, and my immediate family is nearly 20 people, so we have a lot of birthdays and milestones to celebrate. I also have friends all over the country and the world, and I love to travel to see them. I start to get anxious at about the six-week mark if I’ve not been on an airplane, or at least out of the state.

Who are you?

I am truly honored to serve as our Space to Grow Director at Healthy Schools Campaign. Space to Grow is Chicago’s green schoolyards program, which we co-manage with Openlands. With Space to Grow, we are transforming outdated and unsafe outdoor space at schools into beautiful green schoolyards that support physical activity, nutrition education and connecting people to nature. The schoolyards also incorporate special landscape features and gardens (known as green infrastructure) that help address neighborhood flooding issues.

What makes your job great?

I tell people every day that this is the best job I’ve ever had. My background is in urban planning and sensitive resource management, and this is the first time in my career that I get to marry all of my experience and skills with what I’m really passionate about: health, wellness, equity and our environment. Space to Grow is a great way to link urban planning and green infrastructure initiatives to public health and being able to do that from within an organization like HSC is really important, because it’s taking a very holistic and comprehensive approach to the issues. Plus, there is nothing better than seeing such happy kids playing and getting their hands dirty in the gardens!

When did you come to HSC?

August 2014. Before joining HSC, I worked on a variety of land and water conservation projects around the country. I’ve managed public engagement and communication initiatives, land acquisition and conservation easement projects, sensitive resource plans and sustainable building development.

Why did you join HSC?

Doing this work within an organization whose main mission is wellness-oriented is amazing. In previous roles I’ve had, health & wellness would have been considered a secondary benefit of the work, but with Space to Grow it’s one of the main drivers of the program. You’re just not going to get that anywhere else. It’s really unique and innovative.

Where does your motivation come from?

From those 10 nieces and nephews. They are full of energy and wit, and they’re pretty much my favorite people in the world. They keep me young, informed and on my toes. Hopefully, the things I work on will help keep their futures bright.