Rena’ Kelley achieved a college education thanks to one teacher’s belief in her potential. Now in her role as an educator, Kelley works to provide the same types of opportunities for students she meets.
Kelley, an adult education instructor at ASU-Beebe Heber Springs Campus, will advocate for single parent scholarships as she represents Arkansas at the Ms. Elite U.S. Woman of Achievement Leadership Weekend Nov. 18-21 in Scottsdale, Ariz. The mission of Woman of Achievement is to recognize and develop women leaders in their communities. Two events are held annually – The U.S. Woman of Achievement Leadership Weekend and the International Woman of Achievement Leadership Weekend. Women from cultures nationally and worldwide are invited to present women’s issues they face in their home states and countries. The events provide various workshops and networking opportunities for women to learn new ways to overcome challenges from their peers. Both events culminate in cash grants to women demonstrating outstanding contribution in community service, academic achievement, and the arts.
“I’m nervous but excited,” Kelley said. “Women will have an opportunity to hear other people’s platforms and learn new ideas on how to overcome challenges. People from across the nation will attend. It’s a great networking opportunity and a chance to share about the work you’ve been doing in your area.”
Kelley, originally of Russellville, said without the support of her middle school physical education teacher, she would have considered a career in the military in order to be able to attend college.
“We didn’t have the money for me to go to college. I got to go to college because one teacher saw potential in me. I probably would have joined the Navy or the Army otherwise because there was no way I could have afforded to attend college,” she said.
Kelley displayed an aptitude on the balance beam during class, which prompted her teacher to encourage her to attend a summer camp for gymnastics. Kelley could not afford the camp and did not have a means of transportation. Her teacher asked her mother for permission Kelley to attend the camp, offering to provide her transportation and pay for the fee.
“My very first meet, I got first place on beam. When I got into high school, I qualified every year to go to the state meet. I had some colleges looking at me, and that’ how I got to go to college. I went to UCA on a gymnastics scholarship,” she said.
Kelley earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Education with a certification in physical education and science. She went on to earn a Master of Science degree in Education and also holds a coaching endorsement for K-12. Throughout her career in education, Kelley has taught at public schools as well as the community college. She has taught biology and general science, adult education, and has served as a cheerleading sponsor and gymnastics coach. She has volunteer coached soccer, softball, and basketball.
Along with her passion for students, Kelley’s community service involvement garnered her the nomination for the Ms. Elite U.S. Woman of Achievement title. She is a member of the Heber Springs Rotary Club and was the founder of the club’s Cinderella Prom program designed to help students who could not afford formal wear for prom. Kelley also started the Dress for Success Closet at ASU-Beebe Heber Springs, which provides gently used business attire for students to give them foundational pieces to begin their professional careers.