This is one installment in a five-part series highlighting a graduating senior from each of Marion County’s public school districts.
When Kay-Lee Crockett graduates from Harding High School on May 22, she will attend her dream school of Ohio Wesleyan University with a full ride scholarship.
However, before she was a social and enthusiastic color guard captain who will be pursuing a degree in zoology, Crockett was moving in with her great aunt, Jane, at the age of 12 because of strained relationships within her family.
The trauma from her background combined with the fact she did not have as much as her peers made the transition to the district a rocky one.
“I came to Marion City Schools at the halfway point for fourth grade and then into fifth grade, but my family doesn’t have money,” Crockett said.
“I came in with not all the clothes everyone was wearing, not everything that everyone had. I showed up with a composition book and a pencil, and that was my school supplies. ”
Meanwhile, Crockett said her middle school years that followed were the roughest for her as it was when she and her mother argued the most, leading to mental health concerns and court-ordered therapy.
“Middle school was definitely not a time of healing, it was more of survival. That’s what it was. It was more of a survival time, ”she said.
Her great aunt Jane Burris agreed that when Kay-Lee first came to live with her around that time, her great niece was not in the healthiest place emotionally, but she is beyond proud of all that Kay-Lee has accomplished.
It’s so honorable that she came out of the situation she was in and to come out the way she did, such a passionate person. She could have come out any old way, but she’s just so smart and so likeable. I’m proud of her. I’m very proud of her, “Burris said.
Looking back on her years as a student with the district, she said she would not be where she is without the help and support of Marion City Schools staff and teachers, specifically mentioning the impact of GEAR UP Marion Director Austin King.
“I couldn’t have done it without, like, half of the staff at Marion City Schools, like Mr. King. A lot of them were really understanding of a lot of things. Like, I should have failed in middle school, but this lady gave me a D instead of an F, so here I am, ”she joked.
King said he knew he and Kay-Lee would have a good working relationship since the first day they met when she was in middle school. Little did he know at the time what she had going on in her life outside the classroom, but now looking back he said he believes the trauma she experienced made her strong, mature and extremely independent.
“If there was one student I think within my educational career that has made an impact on me it was her, and I don’t think I’ve ever had the chance to say that,” he said.
It was King that wrote one of Crockett’s letters of recommendation for the Dr. Charles Thomas Scholarship, a memorial scholarship that covers 100% of demonstrated financial need. It was also King that got to celebrate with her when she found out she was awarded the scholarship three weeks after she applied for it.
“She came into my office, and I just wish I could paint a picture of her face. It was so bright. She just came in, and she goes, ‘Mr. King, I don’t think I’m going to have an out of pocket cost, ” King said.
“For a student like her, with what she has been through growing up, not having a positive relationship with her family, and her aunt basically took her under her wing, so this is the picture student. You think of a success story? It’s Kay-Lee. You know? And I know she’s going to go to amazing things at Ohio Wesleyan, and I’m just proud of her and so proud that I’ve gotten to get to know her as well. “
Along with her full scholarship to Ohio Wesleyan, Crockett said she is proud to have been selected by her classmates to be on the homecoming court and is proud of the growth she experienced through high school amid the odds stacked against her.
“That was probably the biggest accomplishment: finally learning your place and realizing not everyone was out to get you, and you just have to honestly just change yourself to be better. Not in a negative way like, ‘Oh I need to change my hair for this boy,’ but you just have to grow, ”Crockett said.
Through this growth, she said she has overcome her biggest challenge: the strained relationship she had with a key member of her family.
“It took a really, really long time for us to be able to speak without fighting, probably until I was 17. . . which was last year, ”she said, explaining they now have a“ rocky but stable ”relationship.
Like many of her peers, Crockett will spend the summer working before she moves into Ohio Wesleyan’s campus on Aug. 19. When she isn’t working, she will be spending her time skateboarding, going to outdoor events or hanging out with her friends or her boyfriend, Dominic.
As she steps forward into her future, she noted she wished she could have felt this good back when she was in the fifth grade and thought back to what she would tell her 12-year-old-self.
“I’d probably tell myself,‘ You don’t need to feel like everyone’s against you, ’because they’re not. ‘You can’t keep pushing everyone away’ is probably what I’d say because in the end, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want help, and at the time I didn’t want help, “she reflected.
“It gets better. It just gets better. ‘You just gotta hang on for a couple more years,’ is probably what I’d tell myself. ‘
Story by: Sophia Veneziano (740) 564 – 5243 | firstname.lastname@example.org