To help local businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, civic-minded siblings Isabelle and Max Kellezi, both students at Ardsley High School, have launched an independent student-run volunteer organization called Locally Stronger.
Recognizing the support their school receives from businesses whose names appear on AHS spirit wear and as sponsors of events, the Kellezis decided to offer free social media and website assistance for businesses in Ardsley.
Isabelle, the senior class president, noted that she and her brother, a junior, “learned the importance of social media in bonding a community, especially over the pandemic.”
As a member of the high school’s Planning and Performance Leadership Team (PPLT), Isabelle was involved in creating an alternative type of externship for seniors, whose last month of high school is traditionally spent doing some sort of fieldwork. The Kellezis brainstormed a solution.
Isabelle and Max love social media and promotion, and devised an online externship to benefit businesses while providing students with work and community service experience. Isabelle, who is a competitive Irish dancer, and Max, a graphic designer, honed their skills by working on UFeis, their family’s Irish dance website.
Locally Stronger offers businesses a social media package that includes updating an existing profile; creating a business page; increasing likes and followers; establishing a posting calendar, creating two posts per month; and creating holiday posts. In addition, a website design package will update and improve a website; create a new website; set up a domain and hosting; establish contact information and email accounts; provide ongoing technical assistance; and design a logo.
Isabelle decided that four weeks of support wouldn’t do justice to the businesses, so the duo organized Locally Stronger to continue beyond their years at the high school.
“We want to start a real student movement… we’re really passionate about it,” she stated.
Locally Stronger’s first volunteer meeting was held via Zoom on Jan. 25, to form committees and assign each to a business selected from a directory on the Locally Stronger website (locallystronger.org), which launched Jan. 22. The meeting attracted 90 attendees; a second meeting was scheduled for Jan. 28. As of Jan. 27, nine businesses and 22 student volunteers, ranging from freshmen to seniors, had signed up.
Volunteers do not need technical expertise. On the Locally Stronger website, brief surveys for volunteers and interested businesses will gauge levels of experience to help make the right matches. Volunteers will share their knowledge of social media. “We’re going to have video tutorials on how to make websites using Wix,” Max added.
In addition to Isabelle Kellezi as president, and Max Kellezi as vice president, Locally Stronger has six directors: junior Noah Grossman, business relations; sophomore Sydney Gottlieb, student communications; junior Oscar Salvaggio, community outreach; senior Ananya Sistla, volunteer communications; senior Juliet Stempler, member services; and senior Josh Weintraub, marketing and social media.
The Kellezis credit their school’s administrators, advisers, and teachers for inspiring and supporting them. Schools Superintendent Ryan Schoenfeld’s endorsement on the website states, “We are proud of these civic entrepreneurs comprised of student volunteers focused on supporting local businesses with their online presence and also gain invaluable experience while giving back during this challenging time.”
Mayor Nancy Kaboolian asked Locally Stronger to help on Feb. 12-13, when Concord Road Elementary School students will create dragons and put them in the windows of local businesses, in celebration of the Lunar New Year.
“Ardsley students have a lot of talent and ambition, and our leaders have a lot of confidence in us and our peers,” Isabelle Kellezi summed up. “Ardsley students get stuff done.”