Vol. 16 : No. 1< >
Kelley McKee: Student, Penn State World Campus
This is a story of a disabled mother who is learning to start a new life by earning a degree through distance education at the Penn State World Campus.
Kelley McKee of Steelton, Pa., never had any intentions of taking Distance Education courses. She had already obtained a paralegal certificate at a business school. She was married, had a son and worked as a legal assistant. But her life changed forever when she broke her neck and became paralyzed when she was just 27-years old.
Over time, Kelley has learned to wiggle her fingers enough to peck at a keyboard and to get around daily with the help of a power wheelchair. Although that progress is not enough to allow her to continue her previous career, other opportunities have opened up for her.
Kelley said, "The accident changed my outlook on life, and I immediately looked to education since I had no formal degree." Most traditional programs did not allow her to balance her education with a growing family. Then, Kelley found Penn State Distance Education.
"Distance Education is hard work, but my children make it all worthwhile. Even if for some reason I can't work after obtaining my degree, I will be an educated person, setting a good example for my children and having gained the knowledge that can help them in their future endeavors. Distance Education has changed my life from tragedy to triumph," she said.
"I am learning so much," she added. "Distance Education affords me an opportunity to pursue my own goals and personal work. My education is separate from my issues regarding my disability or my family life and caring for my children."
Commenting on McKee's experience, Gary E. Miller, associate vice president for Distance Education and executive director of the World Campus, noted, "Kelley's story is a wonderful reminder about the impact of Distance Education on the lives of our students and the importance the World Campus places on making a home for students who can not meet their needs through traditional residence programs."
Jane Ireland, academic advisor for Distance Education and the World Campus, remembered when McKee first called her office in the summer of 1999. "As Kelley and I navigated together through the application process, financial aid, and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Kelley never doubted for a moment that we could get this done. I was amazed at her determination, her positive attitude and her caring. Kelley is the perfect example of what I would hope to be if my life's path were to follow hers." Ireland added: "Kelley reminds us of the mission we have in Distance Education-to bring a quality education and experience to students regardless of their geographic location or life circumstances. Kelley is a wonderful example for us of the profound effect we have on the lives of Distance Education students and what a valuable service we offer to a great many students who truly need access to education."
Kelley is a successful student, carrying 12 credits each semester. She plans to complete her bachelor's degree in letters, arts, and sciences then continue on to obtain an online master's degree.
After graduation, McKee hopes to work with injured or disabled individuals, possibly in counseling in a rehabilitation setting. Jane Ireland has no doubt Kelley will achieve her goals.
Kelley attributes much of her success to her "outstanding instructors" and a number of student support services, including financial aid, disability services and vocational rehabilitation. Many of these faculty and staff, however, say that it is Kelley McKee who has been outstanding.
Susan Waitkus, instructor in English at Penn State DuBois, stated, "Kelley inspires not only other students, but also faculty fortunate enough to encounter her. She reminds us how privileged we are to teach."
Contact: To contact Kelley McKee, please obtain phone and email information from Tracey Huston or Celena Kusch (who provided this article) at the Office of Outreach Communications, 814-865-8108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.