GTCC’s POWER Pathways Program has helped William Kelly overcome many challenges

Published on: May 30, 2024
William (second to the left) and a few of his classmates at their recent POWER Pathways Program graduation.
William (second to the left) and a few of his classmates at their recent POWER Pathways Program graduation.

Life has not always been kind to William Kelly.

His mom passed away when he was 7. He moved in with his father and grandmother. In 2021, his grandmother died. Three weeks later his father passed away.

His aunt and uncle, Brenda and Jerome Gordon wrapped their arms around him and brought him into their family.

“I knew I had to step up and do what is right,” said Brenda.

William was diagnosed with an intellectual and developmental disability when he was a child and has faced many challenges in life. Brenda and Jerome wanted to make sure William continued to make progress after the tragic loss of his father and grandmother.

“We are trying to build this young man up,” said Brenda. “We are trying to teach him he is a man, to be the best man he can be, and he has as much right as anyone else. He’s a wonderful young man who has had a lot of challenges.”

When Kelly moved in with his aunt and uncle, they worked diligently to get him enrolled in Guilford Technical Community College’s POWER Pathways Program, a training program with the goal of leading graduates to a meaningful career or volunteer opportunity for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. GTCC offers food service and customer service pathways.

Kelly recently graduated from the POWER Pathway Food Service Program and passed his ServSafe® – Food Handler’s exam, which verifies basic food safety knowledge. Kelly was also nominated and inducted into GTCC’s chapter of the National Adult Education Honor Society this spring.

Kelly's aunt shared praise for Mia Malesovas, Kelly’s POWER Pathway instructor.

“Mia means everything to William. He learned so much from her. Now, if we are doing something together, he may say, ‘That’s not the way Miss Mia would do it,’ and we do it Miss Mia’s way.”

Until recently, Kelly had been working three days a week in the cafeteria at N.C. A&T State University and said he always looked forward to those days.

Kelly said early on a supervisor helped him learn the best way to handle his dishwashing duties.

“He taught me how to keep up with the pace,” said Kelly. “They (dishes) will stack up on you real quick. He showed me everything I needed to know.”

He has also learned some cooking skills, like making mashed potatoes.

“We put the potatoes in a big pot after we clean them and cut them up,” he said. “Then we’ve got to let them boil. Then we empty the water, then mash them and put seasoning in them. We use plastic spoons to sample them.”

Away from school and work, Kelly is a fervent University of North Carolina basketball fan, works out and lifts weight and does volunteer work in his neighborhood.

“We are teaching him to give back,” said his aunt.

His aunt also credited instructor Voulynee Small, Ed.D., with much of William’s growth at GTCC.

Kelly’s time in the POWER Pathways program and on the job has been invaluable, his family says.

“This program has been great for him,” Jerome said of Kelly’s time in the POWER Pathways program and on the job. “He’s learned a lot of things. He’s growing up a bit. We see a big difference in him.”

“William’s work brought him so much joy that he has shared with his family and friends,” said Brenda, adding that Kelly is in the process of completing the application process for another job. “It has made his life so much better.”

Kelly sums it all up best, though.

“I like working and making money and having responsibilities,” said Kelly. “I feel proud.”

For more information on GTCC's POWER Pathways program, visit

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