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Kim Ely A hidden gem

Step through the doors at the front of Wilton High School, and you arrive at Kim’s Booth. With a genuine smile behind her mask, she welcomes over 1,000 students into the school every morning, and wishes them a good day every afternoon.

For years, "Kim’s Booth" has been the prime location for peppermint candies, a reliable delivery system, and a greeting followed by a quick chat between classes. She really has become a daily “destination” for many students, marking her booth as an essential landmark of Wilton High School. A mere 7ft by 9ft rectangular prism with all sides wrapped with glass, the booth has woven itself into the very fabric of the high school’s culture.

Ely attended Wilton High School herself years ago, and she remembers the times when the booth didn't exist. High school students would trample through the front doors without any sort of security system or proper welcome.

"When I went here a long time ago, the booth wasn't even a thing. You'd need to walk upstairs to the main office if you needed to see the receptionist," Ely said.

As a 14-year resident in her booth, Ely's time at Wilton High School has been one of joy. She always wanted to work in the school system, and after applying for a few jobs, she never looked back. Ely hopes to retire with her last place being the booth. She loves watching the kids come in and out of the school daily, and is excited to go back mask-less.

"I want to get the kids back in here full time, no more remote learning. Because you know what makes me happy? You guys do," Ely said.

Ely truly sees the highs and lows of high school. From the happy smiles and loud laughs that walk in the door to the grumpy frowns and exhausted slouches that exit them, she acts as the first glimpse of sunlight people see in the morning. During the pandemic especially, Ely has been there for the kids.

"A lot of people have been a little bit depressed about the whole situation, and a little down about going through the pandemic in general. But then again, we're powering through and we'll be over it soon," Ely said.

Although its current use is far more important now, Ely's booth was set up years ago in 2012 as a way to provide the school with more security.

"Administration decided to move the booth to be more for safety reasons so that we can lock the doors. I can open the doors. I could see who's coming in and out. I could sign them in. Question them before the doors open. All that," Ely said.

She now provides the high school students with a community to thrive in. One of the ways she does this is by having small traditions she keeps and develops through the years. For one, Ely starts counting down the days to the last day of school starting from 50. She thinks it keeps the students' motivation high and rising to finish the year off strong.

"Another thing I do is have candy at my booth. Sometimes the kids need a pick-me-up, and this is the perfect way to do it," Ely said.

"I've seen so many kids come and go, and when they're gone you realize you miss them," Ely said.