NEW BERN — Kelly Shaw knew from a young age that she wanted to work in the field of education. A few setbacks in her life sidetracked her plans, but now at the age of 32, Shaw is finally seeing her dream become a reality.
Shaw was born in Frederick, Md. and raised by a single mom with the help of a supportive dad. After high school Shaw earned her associate’s degree in early childhood education. She began working at a large retail chain in her home state where she managed a daycare inside the store. Eventually she worked her way up the corporate ladder to become a Senior Team Leader. By this time in her life she had fallen in love, purchased a home, and was expecting her first child. Shaw delivered her 3 lb. 13 oz. miracle, Ivan, two months early. During this time Ivan’s dad became very aggressive and was diagnosed with a debilitating mental illness. Like her mom, Shaw became a single parent.
“I knew my life had to have a huge change,” she said. “My crazy hours were not going to work while being a single parent. So, I left my job of 12 years and all my family and friends, sold my home, and moved to New Bern.”
In the spring of 2015, Shaw enrolled at the University of Mount Olive (UMO) in New Bern to pursue her bachelor’s degree and licensure in early childhood education. Shaw’s mom eventually moved to N.C. as well to help with Ivan.
“My mom is my biggest inspiration,” Shaw stated. “She raised me to always try my hardest, never give up, and pick myself up when I fall down. She also modeled these behaviors. My mom has taught me that life is not always easy, but if you are honest and work hard, things always work out and are more than worth it!”
Juggling a full time job, being a full time single parent, and taking a full course load, has sometimes taken its toll on Shaw. Her motivation to continue is found in the daily smiles she receives from her son.
“I want to be an inspiration and role model for Ivan. I want him to know how important an education is and that he can reach any goal, no matter how difficult, if he works hard. Every time that I am tired or think that I can’t keep going, I remind myself that this is part of the journey and that God is with me,” she said.
In addition to being a role model for her own son, Shaw is excited about the opportunity that her degree will provide for her to shape the minds of other young children.
“It is a proven fact that children, birth through five years, learn more and have more brain development then they will the rest of their lives,” Shaw shared. “What an amazing opportunity to be able to help with the building blocks of a child’s entire life. This career choice may not be the best paid or most respected by some, but I know that this career is one that is irreplaceable. To be an educator, you have to love what you do. It not only is my passion, it also makes me feel good that I am impacting so many lives and building relationships with families throughout my community. It means the world to me that people trust me with their children. There is no gift more precious than a child.”
Shaw graduated from UMO on Saturday. She credits her education with helping her land her dream drop working with Craven Smart Start/Child Care Resource and Referral as a Quality Enhancement/Professional Development Coordinator.
“The University of Mount Olive has transformed me in multiple ways,” Shaw shared. “It has shown me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. It has taught me about hard work and determination. It also has introduced me to exceptional people and educators, such as Dr. Sandra Plata- Potter, Pat Morrow, and Sara Green. These women have believed in me and given me opportunities that I will take with me for the rest of my life. UMO has expanded my knowledge on topics that I have known and broadened my knowledge on new topics. It has also given me the tools to help others and teach not only children, but adults. It has taught me to work hard, be determined, and stay organized. It has also helped me advocate for my own child and help others do the same for theirs. I am so grateful for my UMO education!”