Looking Back to See How Far She’d Come
Kaylyn Kelly, who will graduate in spring 2021 with an AA in Education, will be among the CUNY Research (CRSP) Scholars who will present their findings at the Virtual Undergraduate Research Day, to be held on December 4, 2020.
One of the most prestigious annual events hosted by Queensborough, Undergraduate Research Day showcases outstanding work conducted by faculty and students across the academic disciplines.
“I often think of the saying, ‘Don’t look back unless it’s to see how far you’ve come’,” said Kelly, who has experienced her share of challenges over the last several years.
When Kelly was a student at Bayside High School, the promise of a college education seemed out of reach. At the time, she was struggling with depression and anxiety, the combination of which affected her grades.
“The stigma of mental illness is very much alive,” said 24- year-old Kelly, a life-long resident of Jamaica Estates, Queens. “I’ve experienced this stigma which is why I speak out about my own struggles. It may help someone else going through a difficult time.”
Kelly graduated from High School in 2015. That summer she took a job as a full-time youth worker in an afterschool program, Commonpoint Queens, located in Holliswood.
At the time, Kelly knew she wanted to continue her education at a community college, however decided to take a gap year and continue working at the afterschool program.
“It was a natural fit for me. I love working with children, tutoring them, helping them develop social skills, and reassuring them that they are in a safe space to express their feelings and grow as individuals.”
In fact, Kelly said she owes her career choice in part to Commonpoint, where she has worked full-time or part-time for nearly six years.
“Some of the kids I had in kindergarten are going into 8th grade. I’m watching them grow-up!”
In summer 2016, Kelly returned to the idea of going to community college and enrolled in fall 2016 as a first-time, full-time student. Unfortunately personal problems got in the way of the spring semester and she withdrew.
“During that semester I saw my friends from high school doing well in college. I wanted my life to change.”
Kelly returned to Queensborough in the fall of 2017. Her resolve translated into high marks.
“I felt supported when I returned. The professors at QCC are kind and caring. They want the best for their students.”
One of Kelly’s mentors, Professor and Deputy Chairperson, Amy Traver, Sociology, introduced Kelly to the world of research in the spring of 2019.
She encouraged Kelly to apply for the CUNY Research Scholars Program (CRSP), which provides Associate degree students to present their research findings during Undergraduate Research Day.
“In my geology class I learned how to gather information and analyze data to help strengthen my hypothesis and draw conclusions. In my Sociology class I practiced the different research methodologies to gain a deeper understanding of how these methods are applied.”
“Whenever I speak with Dr. Traver about my project she takes my feelings into consideration and walks me through what I’ll need to accomplish over the next few weeks. I genuinely think she is the best mentor for me.”
Kelly’s research project of choice in her speech class was drug policy and the war on drugs; its intersectional impact on class and race, and its direct pipeline to mass incarceration.
“Students of various backgrounds fall victim to many racial disparities in an environment that is supposed to help them develop and learn. These students are at risk of becoming a part of the prison pipeline, they are discriminated against for the color of their skin and they experience the effects of funding and achievement gaps.”
“I want to reach children early in life, to teach them about equality, to establish an equitable foundation for them so they can have better future—a future that is not defined by the color of their skin, the spelling of their name, or their street address.”
“Diversity and respect is so important to me. Going to a diverse school like QCC was the best decision I made. The school welcomed me and allowed me time and space to think about what I wanted to do with my future.”