May 2024 Staff Spotlight: Leaving a legacy- Kelly Boren

Chrystal GillmingStaff Spotlight, Yuba Spotlight

Leaving a legacy


A member of the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, Kelly Boren grew up on the reservation in northern San Diego County. To get to school, Boren boarded the bus at 6:30 a.m. and returned home after baseball, basketball or football practice at 8 p.m. every day.

Boren’s father was a heavy equipment operator who made good money. Boren wanted the same and helped his dad out during the summer months, but his parents wanted different for him and pushed their son to continue on in school. “My mom was my biggest fan,” Boren said.

Baseball led him to the College of Southern Idaho where he played ball and earned his associate degree. When a career as a professional baseball player seemed unlikely, Boren got serious about school.

He had the idea to study kinesiology while an undergrad at San Diego State University and return to his old high school to coach all the sports. A conversation with a dean who learned about Boren’s background and saw something in him, suggested a field where he could help people—social work. Boren went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in counseling with the plan to work at a community college.

College counseling jobs in the San Diego area were in high demand at the time, so Boren expanded his job search and applied for a counseling position at Yuba College, a place he’d maybe heard of once before.

In the fall of 1990 Boren relocated to Grass Valley to start his counseling position at the College, where he continues to be counselor today.
“Yuba is a good place to work,” Boren said. “We’re small enough that we get personal connections with people.”

Boren is the longest-tenured counselor and faculty member at the College, having earned the No. 1 position to lead the academic procession based on seniority at graduations.

In his more than 30 years at the College, Boren has been involved in a variety of committees, including serving on the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges for more than 20 years, participating in the curriculum committee and serving as an affirmative action officer.

When he was initially hired, the College was looking for someone to run a peer advisor program, training students to work with other students. Boren had experience with such a program at a high school while he finished his master’s program, and stepped into the role and led the program for more than 15 years.

“It was very satisfying,” he said. “I still get people coming back. One is an elementary teacher now, almost my age, and said, ‘I just want you to know that was probably some of the best times I’ve ever had was working as a peer advisor.’ That solidifies it for me. That’s probably one of the best things I’ve done at the College.”
Remnants of the program exist today and is now called Student Ambassadors.

Up until three years ago, Boren also taught classes at the College. Initially scared of the teacher task, Boren realized the value of time with students in a classroom setting. As a counselor, students schedule 30-minute appointments to see him. Some students he will see once every two years, some five times a semester, but in the classroom, he had their attention for 54 hours.
“I realized it was a much thorough setting to be able to get them information,” he said. “I started enjoying it more than what I thought in the beginning.”

Boren has left a lasting mark on the College in several ways, perhaps most importantly with starting a Native American student association with annual pow-wows. After taking a break, the club re-started and pow-wows returned to its annual cadence.
“I’m hoping that will be part of my legacy,” Boren said.

Boren visits family on and near the reservation about five times a year. His wife Andrea is a Spanish teacher, and the couple also often travels to Spain, with a trip lined up this summer.