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Special School District of St. Louis County
 
Strength and Maturity Defined: One Student’s Triumph over circumstance
Change is obviously something all teenagers must deal with. But Bayless High School senior Keegan Kelly has seen more than his fair share. He’s dealt with it all his life.

Like many families, Keegan’s family has struggled with making ends meet and as a result, has moved around a lot. Inevitably, this led to frequent school changes, making it difficult for Keegan to settle in with his studies or build relationships with his peers.

In fact, during his younger years, Keegan and his family moved so often he actually loses count when trying to recall all the schools he attended. After naming more than 10 different schools, it would be easy to just give up counting.

Fortunately, he didn’t give up inside the classroom.

When Keegan entered the eighth grade, he landed in the Bayless School District and began receiving services from SSD.

Finally able to settle into one school, Keegan didn’t have to worry about new surroundings all the time. He began to open up more. He joined the Diversity Club during his sophomore year and found a place to belong and make friends. His grades improved as did his speech difficulties.

“By junior year, things really seemed to click for him,” said SSD social worker Bryan Kohring. “And now he’s seeing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. He has taken control over his life and is seeing how he can be a productive citizen.”

“He seems happy, innocent, caring and more involved than before,” said teacher assistant Linda Romero.

Enrolled in the culinary program at Bayless, Keegan now is determined to break the pattern of troubles his family has experienced, and soon hopes to contribute to the financial support of his family.

“There is now a maturity about him beyond his years,” Kohring said. “He’s become very aware of things. His thoughts are on finding a job and stepping up to be a man of the house and be a support for his family.”

Kelly now regularly receives As and Bs in his classes, and has taken part in various activities at school. He has been involved in fundraisers to fight the spread of malaria in Africa and also to support needy scholars in Third World countries by providing breakfasts and school materials to students there.

“I spoke with Keegan recently and he continues to be a shining example of encouragement to others,” Romero said. “He is truly a special young man who has overcome many odds in his life.”

Last spring, Keegan was honored for his accomplishments with a Rosemary Zander Award. The Zander Award program recognizes SSD students that show remarkable achievements and outstanding attitudes through their work and behavior.

“I was in shock for a while,” Keegan said. “I didn’t understand why someone like me would be given such an award. But I got all dressed up in my suit for the banquet and felt so honored! That award ceremony was for those who have struggled in life and school — and survived.”

“The positive label that he never knew and deserves was pinned on him on the night of the Commitment to Kids Banquet,” Keegan’s speech therapist Gina Zurliene said.

Nominations for this year’s Zander Award winners are currently being accepted. To nominate a student, please complete a nomination form and return it to the Communications Department by Jan. 7, 2011. Students must be nominated by an SSD staff member.
Keegan Kelly and nominators
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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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