January 21, 2019

Kelly Gould: From professional acting to social action

HIGH SCHOOL: Home-schooled and College of the Canyons
GOING TO: Undecided

If Kelly Gould looks familiar, there’s a reason. The 17-year-old Santa Clarita resident has already had a successful acting career that would be the envy of many older actors, appearing on sitcoms such as “Rita Rocks” and “Jessie.” 

But when Kelly was about 14, she decided to give acting a break. 

“I was getting into high school and starting to get involved in USY [United Synagogue Youth],” she said. “Acting wasn’t what I absolutely loved. It was something I did because I had always done it.” 

She comes from an acting family. Her mother, Valerie Gould, is an acting teacher and both of Kelly’s older siblings acted. Her father, Tom Gould, is an importing consultant.

“I gave it a break and didn’t really miss it very much, so I haven’t gone back,” Kelly said. “Maybe after or during college it might be something I will pursue.”

The truth is, right now, Kelly doesn’t have a lot of extra time in her schedule — she’s busy saving the world. 

“Kelly is super passionate about repairing the world,” said Sarah Hartnig, youth director at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, where Kelly has participated in USY activities for the last year, since switching from the smaller chapter at her family’s synagogue in Santa Clarita, Congregation Beth Shalom. 

“All the programming she does through USY, she is always thinking about the impact this could have on the community and how to maximize the positivity,” Hartnig continued. “She is an amazing kid, very genuine and someone who really loves community service. You feel it.”

Kelly recently headed up the entire social action/tikkun olam portion of a weekend-long event for the Far West USY region. Some 100 teens participated in the gathering at the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center, where they assembled care packages for soldiers overseas, and filled and decorated flower pots for local retirement home residents.

And she and her family have been involved with Guide Dogs of America ever since Kelly chose to raise a puppy through the organization for her mitzvah project. 

“Our job is to get it socialized,” she explained. “We teach it basic obedience. My parents took it to work, I would take it to classes — everywhere you can think of. You want as many people to be around it as possible so it gets desensitized.” 

The process was so gratifying that they ended up taking on two more dogs after the first one.

As a youngster, Kelly was home-schooled. But since the age of 15, when she passed the California High School Proficiency Examination, she has taken a full load of classes at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita. “I love the college setting,” she said. “It’s so much more serious than maybe my high school would be.” 

This summer, Kelly will return to Camp Ramah in California in Ojai as an outdoor specialist (leading hikes and helping with the ropes course, among other activities), after serving as a counselor for 12- and 13-year-old girls last summer. 

“I never had the chance to go to Jewish summer camp as a kid,” she said. “So getting to work there was an amazing experience. I just love the community. I still am in contact with all my campers; I got to adopt like 16 little sisters.”

Shortly after camp ends this year, Kelly will leave for Israel and spend a year there through Nativ, a program that aims to create Conservative Jewish leaders. She will begin by taking Hebrew and religion classes at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; the second half of her stay most likely will be spent volunteering near Haifa at an agricultural youth village for immigrant high school students, she said.

And while Kelly anticipates completing the college application process while in Israel, she’s not sure where she might end up or what she’ll study. “I am kind of playing that by ear,” she said. “I sort of assume I am going to change and what I want is going to change a tremendous amount in the next year.”

One thing that likely won’t change: her commitment to making the world a better place.