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Kelly Fair, CEO of Polished Pebbles mentors young ladies to Success


Please tell us about your organization and how you came up with the name?

Polished Pebbles is a girls mentoring program that has equipped over 500 girls in the Chicagoland area with the skills and experiences to become effective communicators at home, school and the future work place.  We are able to achieve these partnerships with local businesses, schools, community organizations and a wealth of volunteers.

The name Polished Pebbles is inspired by a quote from Susan Taylor, Editor Emeritus of Essence Magazine’s last book, All About Love, were she talks about the strength of relationships propelling our personal growth. The quote is, “Like pebbles in a bag we all polish one another.”  The strength of mentoring is all based on strong relationships among our girls and the adults who mentor them.

What inspires you to show up at work every day?

“Well there you go, that’s what the South Side of Chicago produces…” was the response First Lady Michelle Obama had when teenage Polished Pebbles mentee, Deneen powerfully introduced Mrs. Obama at the 2011 National Mentoring Summit (see video here:!).  Deneen wasn’t a trained speaker or top student, but a kid with lots of potential presented with a life changing opportunity.  With proper mentoring provided by Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program, she impressed the First Lady, and an audience of hundreds on a national stage. After 10 years experience in education, I know mentoring works. I know the power of mentoring intimately, because it completely changed my life.  Mentoring turned me around from being a shy girl to a self-assured leader graduating with honors from Howard University, to a budding non-profit leader, to the youngest manager in research and national marketing for McGraw Hill Publishing, and recently a 2013 Verizon Everyday Hero nominee.  I left my successful career in corporate America to create Polished Pebbles to unleash the life-altering power of mentoring upon more girls like I was, so that they’ll know that excellence and not violence and failure is what the South Side of Chicago produces!

What have been some of your measurable results and successes?

Exponential growth! Since being founded in 2009, Polished Pebbles has grown from serving 2 girls at our inaugural meeting to having served over 500 girls through 15 program sites at numerous Chicago Public Schools, University of Chicago Charter Schools, The Chicago Housing Authority and community based sites. We have served girls throughout the Chicagoland area, particularly in impoverished and crime infested communities. The success of the program has allowed us to receive contract renewals, extensions, and referrals from many organizations including our partners listed above.

Program impact leads to invitation to speak for the First Lady of US! Despite 13 years in mentoring, Bloomingdale’s Department Stores interacted with youth primarily through mentoring programs at their schools. They never included store tours and interacting with students on store property.  That all changed with their partnership with Polished Pebbles in Chicago.  With the success we had with our “Brown Bag Apprenticeship” Job Shadowing program in Chicago, other Bloomingdale’s markets nationally felt impelled to also start mentoring programs in their areas.  In recognition of Polished Pebbles’ impact, Polished Pebbles mentee, Deneen Borner, was asked to introduce the First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2011 National Mentoring Summit in our nation’s capital.

How can people reach you if they wanted to volunteer or if they need your services? 

They can email us at [email protected], or call us at 773-340-2140.