Gracy Kelley, an Eastern Kentucky University student studying apparel and merchandising, has earned the James G. Stemler Study Abroad Scholarship sponsored by the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society for First-Year Academic Success.
The Stemler scholarship is a nationally-competitive award provided to only 20 ALD members across the United States to support educational opportunities as part of study abroad programs. Kelley earned a $2,000 award to study in Florence, Italy.
“Receiving this scholarship is such a blessing,” Kelley said. “I don’t think I would have been able to experience a study abroad trip otherwise. Alpha Lambda Delta and the James G. Stemler Study Abroad Scholarship has provided me with the ability to expand my horizons in a way that I would have never expected.”
An Honors Program and NOVA student from Lancaster, Ky., Kelley embodies Eastern’s ‘School of Opportunity’ motto as she has taken the opportunity to become active and engaged in a variety of student organizations.
“EKU offered everything I wanted in higher education: affordability, familiarity and a close-knit community that other campuses didn’t offer,” Kelley said. “I’ve been able to connect with some really amazing organizations through leadership opportunities, including Alpha Lambda Delta. These opportunities have been made available to me to the fullest.”
Dr. Travis Martin, first-year courses administrator, director of the Kentucky Center for Veterans Studies, EKU Alpha Lambda Delta chapter adviser and member of the ALD national board of directors, praised Kelley’s attitude, persistence and resilience.
“She’s traveled a long, winding road to get to Eastern. Many would have given up,” Martin said. “I thought, ‘This is the sort of student that makes Eastern a school of opportunity,’ She’s brilliant. She works hard. She knows what she wants in life. When she told me she loved her major because it lets her ‘blend science and art,’ I was inspired. Alpha Lambda Delta prides itself on taking students from first-year to career. As an apparel design and merchandising major, the Stemler scholarship is going to help Gracy gain an international perspective on her field through a learning opportunity only study abroad can provide.”
Kelley doesn’t shy away from her personal story of resilience and perseverance. She grew up in a home with drug and alcohol abuse, encountered homelessness for a time and found comfort in the unconditional love from her grandparents.
“They are some of the most kind and warm-hearted people I’ve been blessed to meet, and they willingly opened their home and hearts to raise my sisters and me, eventually adopting the set of us in 2015,” Kelley said. “I owe them my entire success, and who I am as a person today. I don’t think I would have succeeded in my educational goals without them. I’ve been through a lot, but I refuse to let my past define my future.”
EKU professors were quick to congratulate Kelley.
“Gracy is an incredible student to have in class,” said Dr. Michelle Clouse, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences. “She contributes academically and socially to create a fun learning environment. I am excited to see Gracy’s future unfold because I know she is going to shine in whatever she chooses to do.
Kelley’s future indeed looks bright.
“I believe the eye-opening encounters and cultural influence found within a study abroad trip will be entirely valuable to my future within design and fashion, in addition to any other career opportunities I hope to encounter.”