By Dawne Belloise
The Feral Kids at the End of the Road
Kelsey left Crested Butte after CBCS graduation in 2010 to eventually make her home and a career in Paris, France, where she’s been for eight years now. As managing director at The Good Lobby, an advocacy NGO, she works in European affairs and advocacy, helping other non-profit organizations. Focused on grassroots groups that are working for climate, youth, justice or migration, she helps those groups to do better political work by understanding the political and legal systems, going to court with them and also calling up the policy makers.
“We’re advocates for the advocates. They don’t have the time or money to do these things themselves,” Kelsey explains. “We want the small organizations to have the same voice and tools as corporations or political actors.” The company also has an office in Brussels, Belgium, where Kelsey works half of the time.
Kelsey realized in high school that she enjoyed foreign languages and politics, and she says, “I always wanted to travel and work on international issues.” She enrolled at New York University (NYU) and studied Arabic, French and international affairs. One of her assignments in Arabic class was to give a presentation about her cultural holidays. “I gave a presentation about Vinotok. They were very confused,” she grins about the class’s reaction. “It was hilarious. It was my way of saying, this is my culture. I still feel Vinotok is very special.” With her Arabic language skills, Kelsey thought she’d move to the Middle East, “which almost gave my mom a heart attack,” she laughs. She graduated in 2014, in the middle of the Arab Spring, “I think she (mom Susan Beltz) was relieved because I wasn’t going to move to the Middle East at that moment.”
Having studied abroad in France, she took a job and moved to Amiens, “and I loved it! I taught English in a primary school there for two years.” But Kelsey didn’t want to be a teacher so she went back to school and earned two master’s degrees, one in international law from Fletcher School and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston and the other in public policy from Sciences Po Paris, the latter, she says, “is the best school in France and I knew if I could get through it, it would open a lot of doors here.”
When COVID hit, Kelsey was working for NYU Law School in Paris, helping to run their NGO program, which is how she got her current job. “There was an ‘oh shit’ moment where they closed the school and students had to evacuate,” she tells, but Kelsey stayed in Paris despite that she suddenly had no job. “We had a full lock down where you couldn’t leave your home past one kilometer. The police would check where you lived if you were out. There was a 6 p.m. curfew for all ages. It was terrible. I was like a little American hamster, I had stocked up on the worst rice and toilet paper. That was my father’s instinct,” she laughs.
To pay for living expenses, Kelsey started her own one-woman consulting agency on politics, advocacy and international legal stuff, which she still does along with her full-time position at The Good Lobby.
“Paris is not CB, but it’s also not New York in the sense that there’s a real neighborhood feel here. I have my favorite cafe where they remember my daily order, people in my neighborhood are there reading or talking. I have a florist who knows I like sunflowers,” an influence from her days as a Crested Butte flower child, and buying fresh flowers for her Paris apartment is, “one of my little rituals,” she smiles.
In her free time, Kelsey tells, “True to my father, (artist Kevin Beltz) I draw a ton, I paint and I do photography. It started during lock down. I had nothing to do so I started drawing again.”
With work, she and her cat Luna take the train from Paris to Brussels. Luna was rescued from a trash can in Boston and Kelsey laughs that, “now she lives in a swanky apartment in Paris.”