Hear Her Story - Q&A With
Mary Laske Bell '01
1. Where did you go to school after The Elms? Are there any special accomplishments or experiences there that you would like to share?
I started my undergrad at Ohio University, but transferred to the University of Akron in my second year. I got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Sociology from Akron, and then went on to earn my PhD in Sociology from Vanderbilt University. My favorite experience at Akron was my internship with the Akron Police Department. At Vanderbilt, my favorite experience was outside academia. I became more involved in my community and ran a non-profit dog rescue called East CAN (Community Action Network) with my girlfriends.
2. Where did you start your career? What are you doing now?
I had a few jobs after graduating before I found my true talent and passion in the health and wellness industry. My passion is helping people look and feel their best, and helping them to become the best version of themselves. After a couple promotions over three years, I am currently the Regional Operations Lead for three Orangetheory Fitness studios in Brecksville and Beachwood, and I coach group fitness classes at our Brecksville location. Additionally, as a health coach with Arbonne International, I get to help people improve their health, live their life to the fullest and find their own success and financial freedom. It took several years for my passion to manifest into a viable career, and now my vision for the future is bigger than I ever thought possible. What I enjoy most about my career is that I get to help people find (or find their way back to) a path to healthy living, and I get to watch them transform physically and emotionally.
3. In March, you were the keynote speaker for the Elms Career Day. Tell us about the theme for your speech. What are the messages you were trying to deliver to the students that day?
The theme of the talk was “My Path to Passion.” It was the perfect theme at just the right time in my life because my career has really solidified in the last year. I wanted the students to know that sometimes the path to your final destination is long and curvy; sometimes you start off in one direction and end up in a completely different place; and I wanted to encourage them not to judge where you are on your path or how your path looks compared to how it looks for other people. I also wanted them to know that some of my talents and skills were developed by taking big leaps and scary risks, and that just because you aren’t good at something now doesn’t mean you can’t master it over time. Lastly, I wanted them to know there is no weakness in admitting your fears and asking for help.
I was very impressed with the questions the students asked and how organized the event was. I hope the students realize the value of their time at the Elms, not just because of the education they are receiving, but because of the strong female leaders to whom they are exposed.
5. What are your hobbies?
Outside of my work life, I enjoy spending time with my husband, our two dogs, my parents, and my girlfriends. I love hosting girls’ nights, and I love good food and drinks from locally owned restaurants. I still remain very connected to my dog rescue friends and still consult for them from time to time.
6. What does an Elms education mean to you? Do you have any memories that you would like to share?
Some of my greatest memories at the Elms include the bus rides for soccer and track, lunch in the cafeteria, and hanging out in the senior lounge… which goes to show that one of the best part of attending the Elms is the relationships you build there. Some of my favorite teachers included Sr. Fabian (History), Sr. Marilyn (Drawing and Calligraphy), Mrs. Krueger (English), and Mr. Polk (English, Religion). I also loved my science classes—Mrs. Kermizis’ shark dissection week was a memory I’ll never forget, and Mrs. Mattice and Ms. Kelley were super passionate about chemistry and geology, respectively.
7. What would you say about the Elms to a 7th or 8th grader who is looking at high schools? How did you make your decision to attend The Elms?
I was considering a couple high schools when I was in 8th grade and I visited all of them. My visit at the Elms was by far the best. I felt immediately welcomed by the students and like I belonged with the Elms girls. I think there’s something about going to school with all girls that creates less competition among students and more teamwork and deeper friendships. I noticed the girls were more outgoing and had more fun at the Elms compared to the other schools I visited. They weren’t afraid to look silly, and I found that empowering. You will have plenty of friends at other schools and you will meet plenty of guys. I think attending the Elms is the best of both worlds. When I was in school, the motto was, “All girls, all the better,” and I believe it still rings true today. I would pick the Elms again and again.
8. Is there anything you would like to share about your family?
My sister, Kate '98, also attended the Elms. I love that we still share a spot on the Track & Field records board at the Elms (she holds another record on her own as well). My husband, Austin, attended Firestone High School. We met when I was 16, but we didn’t start dating until 11 years later. He is a personal trainer and security consultant and goes on worldwide tours with rockstars. He has worked with The Black Keys, Drake, Macklemore, Pearl Jam, Pentatonix, Arcade Fire and Foo Fighters, to name a few. Our dogs are named Wiley and Darla.