Special to the Countywide
KARNES CITY – For four years, a bubbly, blonde-haired, brown-eyed girl has roamed the halls of Karnes City High School with a certain sparkle to her. At times that sparkle came from her many crowns, shiny medals, or cheerleader glitter, but in reality she never needed any of those to help her shine – her heart, smile, and actions do that on their own.
The name “Lauren Kelley” is not only a staple at KCHS, but is even viewed as a standard other students hope to reach someday. This 17-year-old graduate has been involved in multiple organizations and teams, has served as a leader in most of them, and has been the recipient of many awards and honors, and she still finds time to assist others and keep a smile on her face while doing so.
“Lauren is driven, focused, dedicated…She truly stands out as one of the most ‘together’ students I’ve taught because she can juggle so many activities and do them all well,” Lauren’s former Journalism coach Julie Nichols said. “She doesn’t seem to get easily stressed out. She possesses wisdom beyond her years. When she sets her mind to a goal, she gives it her all. She is hard-working, talented in various activities – Academics, Athletics, Cheerleading, UIL Journalism, yearbook, musically-inclined – analytical and creative.”
This year alone, Kelley has achieved numerous successes. She was crowned homecoming and prom queen, was first runner-up for Miss Karnes City, achieved Academic All-State volleyball, medaled as district and regional champ in feature and editorial writing, respectively, received a prestigious FCA scholarship, and earned the title as valedictorian of the senior class. She thought these titles and honors would sum up her senior year – until she won second place at State editorial writing.
“Lauren called me and said, ‘Mom, guess what? I got second!’” Lauren’s mother Carol Kelley said. “Her voice was shaky and she was so excited. I see how hard Lauren has worked over the years – reading, preparing for competitions, communicating with peers and adults, caring for others…and I feel so happy for her because I see how hard she has worked to get to where she is.”
Kelley has competed in journalism all four years of high school. She has medaled high at various meets during her high school career. This year was her first time to advance to state competition, and she definitely did not let that opportunity go to waste.
“Lauren competed in UIL journalism events for me since her freshman year and contributed to the success of the J-team,” Nichols said. “Even though she wanted to advance to state so badly in spring 2013 – and was disappointed at regional when she got the news that she had not placed – she never gave up, and it paid off immensely her senior year with her earning that silver medal. As a teacher or coach, we want to see students’ hard work bear out through achievement; I wish I could have been there to celebrate with her.”
As the oldest of four sisters, Kelley’s triumphs and actions in and out of school set an example for her younger siblings.
“Lauren has been a role model by always giving whatever she’s doing 100 percent of her effort,” younger sister, rising freshman Kendall Kelley, said. “She won’t do anything halfway. She inspires me to always do better, and her success is something I want to live up to. I definitely think she has had an influence on who I am today.”
While Lauren’s dedication and success in her extra-curricular activities defines who she is, her heart, personality, and kindness to others is what make her stand out.
“Lauren will put others in front of herself, and she is very accepting,” Lauren’s sister, senior Morgan Kelley, said. “She cares about everybody regardless of where they came from or who they are. She has set a good path for me and my sisters to follow. She has definitely proven to me that being nice to everyone pays off.”
With such a packed schedule and so many people to please within school, it can be hard to put as much energy into familial relationships and responsibilities at home. However, this is not the case for Lauren.
“The thing I like most about Lauren is that even though she is so busy, she still finds time to hang out with me and my sisters,” Lauren’s youngest sister, seventh-grader Brittany Kelley, said. “I know I can always come and talk to Lauren about anything, and she will always be there for me.”
Outside her home, Lauren serves as a role model for her peers and underclassmen. Her willingness to offer her assistance and guidance to those who seek it has helped her influence the lives of many students.
“Being a freshman, I did not know much about high school and Lauren was always there for me,” sophomore Kyler Palmer said. “She stuck me under her wing and taught me how to survive high school. I have made so many memories with her this year and she has truly made a huge impact on my freshman year. I’m going to miss her so much. I hope she doesn’t let a diploma and freedom from KCHS keep her from here. I am going to be here for three more years, and I’ll need her to help me get through them.”
Even those who have grown up with Lauren voice their awe for all she does.
“The things I admire about Lauren could go on a list that probably goes on for a mile,” fellow graduate and yearbook editor Krupa Bhakta said. “She cares so much about all that she does, and the dedication she puts into everything is amazing. I not only admire her, but am also thankful for everything she has done for the school, and for me. I would not have been able to go through senior year of yearbook without her help.”
Dedication to helping and forming strong relationships with others is something Kelley hopes to embrace in her future career. Next fall, she will attend the University of Texas at Austin to pursue her chosen major of speech pathology. Born and raised by two A&M alumni, Kelley’s chosen university came as a shock to the Aggie household.
“My initial reaction was hurt, but after knowing what field of study she wanted to pursue, and after a visit to the university, I felt better,” Lauren’s father Danny Kelley said. “I just want Lauren to get a good education and seeing her excitement calms my fears. She is a good candidate for the speech pathology program, which assists children with speech disorders, because she has a special bond with kids and is very patient.”
Graduation is only the beginning for Kelley. Her contributions to the community and church and her triumphs within school signal that she will continue to succeed and shine in her future endeavors.
“I’m quite sure Lauren will exceed all of her goals,” Nichols said. “I see a young woman with focus and dedication to making a difference in the world. I think her goal to pursue a master’s of speech pathology at the University of Texas at Austin is admirable, and I know she will keep impacting lives. She certainly has made a huge difference in our little corner of the world.”