Lisa Kelly Continues Unusual GTCC Success Story With Emotional Addresses At Graduation, Convocation

Published on: August 30, 2021
Lisa Kelly speaking at the 2021 GTCC Convocation.

When we last visited with Lisa Kelly, she was working hard to put the finishing touches on her GED at Guilford Technical Community College with a goal of a March graduation.

She crossed that off her list with ease, ending what she refers to as an endurance record of sorts for length of time to complete the curriculum, but more on that later.

Kelly added a pair of exclamation points to her GTCC career by speaking not at one, but two huge campus gatherings post-graduation. First, she was a keynote speaker at her graduation ceremony in March, and then, just a couple of weeks ago, she addressed a gathering of GTCC faculty and staff at the annual convocation.

So moving was her convocation address, she received a rousing ovation to help celebrate one of the most unlikely of all GTCC success stories.

“Finishing my GED was everything to me. I had been fighting to graduate my whole life,” said Kelly. “I was always a high achiever, but I kind of got lost in the system.”

When Kelly was 16, she was forced to leave school to help care for six younger siblings and to work to support the family. That marked a downward spiral that saw her wind up in the legal system.

“Not only was I uneducated, but I had a felony. Not only were people looking at me as unintelligent they were looking at me as a felon,” said Kelly.

Kelly first signed up to take classes at GTCC when she was 18 but the attempt was short-lived. She tried again a decade later in 2012 and was well on her way to success when she was called out of a testing session because her home had been burglarized. Finally, a year ago, she returned to GTCC and was able to complete the first step of her educational plans, the GED, in a year.

Kelly said when she spoke to faculty and staff members at the recent convocation, she talked about her experiences in the adult education program.

“It was life. Everything hits you,” she said of her earlier attempts at the GED program. “Being a mom, bills, just everything … I just couldn’t. It took me 10 years to complete this program. When it switched to online last year I said, ‘this is my opportunity’. I wasn’t able to sit in the classroom that long because of obligations. Now I can accomplish everything I have wanted my entire life and that is to be a lawyer.”

Kelly is already making strides in that direction. She is again enrolled at GTCC, this time pursuing an Associate of Arts in history with the end goal at Bachelor of Arts in history followed by law school. She has a summer internship with a Greensboro law firm while working part time at a nonprofit.

As Kelly said in her convocation address, there is little doubt her success to date, and success in the future can be traced directly to GTCC.

“I encourage you all to continue to be the exceptional faculty and staff and I have witnessed you be over the past decade,” Kelly said to the convocation gathering. “To keep believing in the Lisa Kellys, to greet and smile at the students passing you by and to always stand up for those who choose to be in class. Thank you for over 63 years of excellence, for helping us achieve our academic goals. For not only impacting our lives, but our community as well. Our success has been due to all of you.”


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