Meet Spring 2023 Valedictorian Kelly Green
Summa Cum Laude
College of Health
By definition, to persevere is to “continue in the course of action even in the face of difficulty with little or no prospect of success.”
If a picture were to accompany the word, it would undoubtedly be of Kelly Green.
The self-proclaimed “non-traditional” student already has her sights set on bigger and better things, having been accepted into graduate school to pursue a master's in social work studies. However, to understand the significance of her accomplishment, one must understand the climb it took to reach this point.
Shortly after graduating high school, Green was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. However, that did not deter her from enrolling at Lorain County Community College, where she attended on and off for eight years, dabbling in psychology but later earning a certificate in phlebotomy.
Things started going downhill from there.
After experiencing what Green describes as a life-changing, major surgery, the health problems began to pile up, and eventually, she became bedridden, later turning to alcohol to cope. She had long given up her dream of finishing school and working a regular job. Finally, she hit rock bottom. But it was at that moment it was time for a change.
Little would she realize that decision would impact the rest of her life.
With the help of doctors and enrollment into a 12-step fellowship program, Green began to care for her mental health, getting stronger every day and her dreams slowly coming back into focus. Along the way, she refined her idea of studying psychology into pursuing a major in social work; her experience as a patient on the receiving end made her realize how much of an impact one could make helping others.
Fast forward to 2023, not only has the newly-crowned Valedictorian Green maintained a pristine 4.0 throughout her studies at CSU, but she has held down a job as a licensed Peer Recovery Supporter, which is someone who uses their lived experience in recovery to help others in their unique journey with both mental illness and substance disorder.
She also works at Front Steps Housing and Services, a permanent supportive housing facility for homeless individuals. In her role, Green assists people who are sober and need more support, along with helping those who are still using drugs and steering them toward safer activities so that they can increase the prospects of their recovery efforts.
If that isn’t enough, Green also holds down two volunteer positions, one at Project White Butterfly, a nonprofit that provides handwritten notes of support with information about addiction services in the hopes someone will take that leap of faith toward a brighter future; another at Lakewood New Life Church, where she makes sandwiches to distribute to local homeless individuals in the community.
The miracle work of therapists helped Green crawl out of a dark place, and she knows how powerful of an impact it had on her life. Now, she is looking to pay it forward to others. When it comes down to it, Green is the epitome of someone who not only faced incredible odds but never gave up and did not let anything stand in the way of accomplishing her dreams.
CSU: What made you go into your major(s)? Were there any defining moments or inspirations that led you on that path?
KG: I got into social work after it was recommended to me by my college counselor. I had previously studied psychology and took all the psych classes available at my community college. Going into CSU, I was told that getting a four-year degree in social work would be similar, [and] I would be able to get my license after four years. I had already planned to go to graduate school, but I liked the idea of having a license after four years.
CSU: What made you pursue your major(s)? Were there any defining moments or inspirations that led you on that path?
KG: I was inspired to study psychology and social work due to being diagnosed with mental illness in high school. I thought human behavior was fascinating, and I wanted to learn all about it. I have always been a helper, and I thought working with clients suffering from mental illness would be fulfilling.
CSU: Once you started getting into your major classes, how did your perception of that course of study change?
KG: I thought it was right up my alley. Social work studies focus on serving clients in the best way. Psychology taught me diagnoses and theories, but social work courses taught me how to be a provider of care. It became clearer that I was on the right path when taking social work classes.
CSU: How has CSU cultivated your character, values, and standards of excellence?
KG: I think being involved in extracurricular activities, such as the Diversity Committee, has strengthened my values of inclusion and cultural competency. Having the opportunity to be in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) student organization has given me the chance to be aware of many social issues I did not know about before joining. My character has been strengthened as well, due to joining both organizations, because they have made me an active participant in addressing these issues, instead of just a student studying them. My standards of excellence have been maintained through the excellence of the instructors I’ve encountered.
CSU: How do you think you’ve changed or grown during your time at CSU?
KG: I think I have grown into a more capable mental health professional who is confident and eager to begin my new career as a social worker after graduation.
CSU: Aside from being Valedictorian, what stands out most about your CSU experience?
KG: What stood out the most to me about my CSU experience is the willingness and capability of my instructors to help guide students toward success. I rarely had instructors that made it difficult to succeed in their classes.
CSU: What is your favorite CSU memory?
KG: My favorite memory is a conversation with one of my instructors that opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about a controversial issue. She helped me adopt a more loving and knowledgeable approach to oppressed individuals.
CSU: What is next for you in life, and how has your experience at CSU prepared you for it?
KG: I will be attending graduate school in the fall. The Bachelor of Social Work program has prepared me well for the next step in my educational goals.
CSU: What advice would you give to the next class or a freshman entering your major?
KG: Utilize the resources that the college provides, such as the writing center, student organizations, and the Office of Disability Services if you have any kind of special need. The college is here to help you overcome your obstacles, so do not be afraid to seek out those services.