Guidance counselor, Operation Snowball director Kevin Leslie retires from DGN


STRUM ALONG: Kevin Leslie plays guitar with Snowball director Finn McTigue (senior)

Tabitha Irvin, Opinion Editor

Hundreds of high schoolers dressed in thematic costumes dance freely, rainbow skirts, cowboy boots, and tie-dye shirts intermixing. Music blares overhead, reverberating off of high ceilings and wood-paneled walls. At the center of this chaotic yet carefree group lies Kevin Leslie, an integral member of Operation Snowball and DGN’s counseling staff


Leslie began working at DGN in 2000 after his previous job as a social worker at Hinsdale Central High School. He started out as the Student Assistance Coordinator before moving to his current position as a guidance counselor. Leslie was allured to DGN’s CSSS department because of its impressive leadership program for students revolving around mental health and substance abuse. 


Brian Kittinger, in addition to his role as a social worker, is proud to call Leslie a friend. The two both coordinate and participate in Snowball, an activity Kittinger has Leslie to thank for. 


“When I first started doing Snowball, I took the Metra every day to school, so it didn’t work out for me to get home after a late training. So Mr. Leslie and I would go out to dinner ahead of time and he would let me crash at his house after training. His kindness and generosity are always on full display,” Kittinger said. 


Both Leslie and Kittinger have learned valuable lessons during their time with DGN’s CSSS department. Kittinger specifically attributes much of the department’s positive attitude to Leslie. 


“My biggest takeaway I have learned from Mr. Leslie would be that you can take your job very seriously but still have a lot of fun doing it. I think he helped instill that not only in me but our whole department,” Kittinger said. 


Leslie’s success has not come without lessons of his own, however. He is glad, for one, that “students and families have increasingly been able to talk more openly about mental health issues and seek out support.”


“Counseling and Social Work have taught me to be patient with others. Every student moves and changes at their own pace and has their own unique path that must be respected in order to understand how to support that person or student,” Leslie said. 


Sophie Michaels, a senior at DGN, has had Leslie as her school counselor for the past four years. She was glad to see a friendly face at her first Snowball retreat, and since then, has developed a rapport with Leslie. 


“Mr. Leslie inspired me to be a Snowball director. I always loved Snowball, but I never thought about taking the next step and doing the extra work to become a director until he pushed me to pursue the position. It was ultimately the best decision I made because it created an amazing high school experience,” Michaels said. 


Also a Snowball director, senior Abbey Goddard remembers meeting Leslie for the first time at a retreat. 


“He [Leslie] wasn’t just a Snowball organizer. He was also a mentor that fostered a collaborative and heartfelt environment for everyone at the retreats. He always had a good time, but also made sure that everyone else had a better time,” Goddard said. 


According to Kittinger, without Leslie’s heavy involvement in Operation Snowball, the organization would fail to exist at DGN. 


“I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that there would not be a Snowball program if it wasn’t for Mr. Leslie. He was instrumental in building the Snowball program up from its infancy into the program it is today. He has directly helped train hundreds of leaders who have in turn impacted thousands of students over the past 22 years,” Kittinger said. 


After retiring May 21, 2023, Leslie plans to travel around the world and spend “lots of time with family and friends.” He also aspires to spend a year relaxing, playing guitar, and golfing. While Leslie’s chapter at DGN is soon coming to an end, his legacy will persist, according to Kittinger. 


“I will miss his infectious laugh, Friday lunches, and his contagious enthusiasm about things he is passionate about. He has helped instill in me to laugh at myself and not be so serious all the time,” Kittinger said. 


Leslie would like to thank his colleagues in the CSSS department for supporting him throughout the years. 


“There have been ups and downs that life brings us all, and the comradery and laughter have been a gift. They are my second family.”