A Career Spanning 32 Years: The Story of Ms. Annie Kelly

Annie Kelly Resized for Website.jpgMs. Annie Kelly, a Child Services Manager at Action Pathways Head Start, didn't always start in this position. She actually began her career with Head Start as a Parent Volunteer.  In fact, her daughter attended the Smith Chapel Head Start program, which is no longer a center, many, many years ago. Through her involvement with Smith Chapel, Ms. Kelly eventually went on to become a Teacher's Assistant thanks to her seven years of experience in the day care services.

Mrs. Betty Taylor, who at that time was the Education Coordinator, now known as the Child Services Manager, saw Ms. Kelly's love and interest in children and encouraged her to earn a Child Development Associate credential (CDA) in 1985, so she could become a lead teacher, but  Ms. Kelly had her reservations.

“My husband died in 1983, and I didn't see myself working full time and going to school," Ms. Kelly explained.

Eventually, she pushed through her reservations and received her CDA. Head Start staff then encouraged her to earn her Associate’s  Degree as well.

"With work and three children, I felt like I couldn't, but I finally earned my Associate’s in three-and-a-half years," Ms. Kelly noted.

Soon, Mrs. Taylor urged her to go back and earn her Bachelor’s Degree, too, and continued to reaffirm Ms. Kelly that she could indeed do it; however, as Ms. Kelly said, “I kept thinking, no, I can't.”

Ms. Kelly once again managed to push through her fears, and soon enrolled in the Early Childhood program at Fayetteville State University. She remembers it was a difficult road for her at first, so she stopped school, started up again, and then stopped and finally, transferred to UNC Pembroke.

“I couldn’t take it anymore, so I did a little bit at a time, I didn’t think I was going to make it through,” Ms. Kelly remembered.

But notably, her hard work paid off, and she graduated with a 3.6 GPA all while raising her children and working full time at Head Start.

Ms. Kelly’s work ethic speaks for itself, which is why the Head Director at the time called her one summer when the River Commons building was being built, and said an On-Site Supervisor was needed for the centers.

“I didn’t have to interview, based on my performance, and I was the first on-site supervisor ever for the agency, then I became the Education Coordinator after a year,” Ms. Kelly said proudly.

Despite her many credentials and degrees, Ms. Kelly credits her experience over education,

“More than education, I find that training for that position is much more important, I feel my knowledge and experience in Day Care has helped me move up,”  explained Ms. Kelly.

She continued, “I always strive for excellence.” Which couldn’t be more true for her, despite all the trials and tribulations she has endured, Ms. Kelly never gave up.

Another important asset to her career has been her three children.

“I used the Head Start education assistance a couple of times because my kids would say, if momma can do it, we can do it, and that really motivated me,” Ms. Kelly said.

Again, she continued on, “Head Start has given me everything, it really has.”

Some of her former students, who still keep in touch to this day, are now successful lawyers and social workers, among many other professions.  

“I myself, went from a high school diploma to a college graduate, all because of Head Start, and I’m the second in my family,” elaborated Ms. Kelly. “I was able to purchase a house, even though most of my family was on welfare, but I didn’t want that for my children. When I look at my children and how successful they are, I know it’s all because of Head Start. I see what Head Start has done for me and my family, I want everyone to reap the benefits and take advantage.”

She credits all her success to Head Start and the push she received from fellow staff members, believing that people don’t really realize the impact Head Start can have, not only on children but  parents as well.

“My time was so different. We grew up poor, so I’m appreciative how my life turned out. I look back and think that was a difficult time, and I didn’t even know it,” recalled Ms. Kelly. “I can’t stress enough, if it wasn’t for Head Start… It has kept me focused, kept me driven. Head Start has been so good to me.”

Some may call it cliche but true, it takes a village to raise a child, and as Ms. Kelly fondly exclaimed, “Head Start is that village.”

Ms. Kelly has given 32 years to Head Start, and is so grateful for everything it has given her, but Action Pathways and the Head Start program are even more grateful to have her.  These are just some of contributions and a small glimpse of  how devoted she has been to the organization.

Ms. Kelly explained, “1975 up until now I have helped children, and I love every bit of it.”  

For more information on becoming a member of the Action Pathways Head Start team, visit: https://actionpathways.ngo/careers

To learn more on about Head Start and how you can enroll your child, call: (910) 487-9800. You can also visit: https://actionpathways.ngo/earlychildhood