“I was on my own since I was 16-years-old and never finished high school,” she said. “I lived a life that most people only see in gang movies.”
When Kelly hit rock bottom, she frequently visited Glendale Community College (GCC) watching students head to class.
“I imagined what kind of books were in students’ bags and what they were studying,” she said. “It motivated me to get moving. I was tired of living without a purpose.”
Kelly, had received her GED at 18, but she realized that a college education was the key to turn her life around. She attended GCC for one year, but she wanted more. Kelly enrolled at ASU and in just six years, she earned two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in education. With a lot of hard work and determination Kelly changed her life and began her career as a Destination Graduation coach. In this role, she works with high school freshmen to build their confidence and identify goals for their futures, including college or career.
“While working, I heard about a family who needed a United Way WeekEnd Hunger Backpack to provide a student regular meals. I also heard they had no home to go to,” she said. “I knew I had to help this family.”
When Kelly met Eric and his mom Andrea, she openly shared how she was personally impacted by homelessness. She told them how education led her to a career and a place to call home. Kelly connected the family with vital housing and workforce services and helped Eric enroll in summer school.
Eric is now a sophomore at Camelback High. Andrea obtained a job at a local hotel, increased the family savings and moved them into an apartment.
Thanks to Destination Graduation coaches like Kelly, students like Eric can find their way home and on the path to a bright future.
Kelly Irvin has worked in education for several years, first as a success coach and then high school teacher. Her passion for mentoring led her to her current position as a Destination Graduation Coach (a United Way funded program) with Jobs for Arizona Graduates at Camelback High School.
Through this effort, she helps students build their confidence and overcome any obstacles that could prevent them from graduating. Ms. Irvin is a three time honors graduate from Arizona State University, with a Bachelor’s in history and English, as well as a Master’s in education with a teaching certification.