Creating a healthy community through people, parks, and programs. That is the message of the South Carolina Recreation and Parks Association (SCRPA) and what one Morris College student is striving to accomplish.
Kenton Kelley, a junior recreation administration major, political science minor, was selected by James “Jim” Headley, the executive director of the SC Recreation and Parks Association, to attend a state-wide conference focused on creating quality after-school programs.
The conference “Creating Quality Afterschool Time Programs,” brought in a number of attendees from different backgrounds including the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance, South Carolina Education Oversite Committee, as well as representatives from the City of Newberry and Rock Hill.
Attendees spoke on some of the trials and tribulations they've encountered in the industry and collaborated on ways to improve programs and incorporate new technologies such as the Mobile Rec Program that would help to create healthier communities.
Kelley, who is the president of the Morris College Recreation Administration Club, attributes his ability to lead and inspire to the community support he received as an adolescent.
After losing his father at the tender age a five, Kelley’s mother had no choice but to sign him up for an after-school program while she worked to make ends meet. Kelley’s mother knew she had to enroll her son into a program that would provide him with the essential tools and skills needed that offered her son a positive impact on life inside and outside of the classroom. Upon entering high school, Kelley was introduced to the Communities in Schools-Charleston program which helped to shape him into the man he is to this day.
The R.B. Stall High School alum credits the Communities in Schools program for giving him the service-learning opportunities, counseling, and parental support he needed to succeed throughout his youthful years. He even credited them for helping him choose Morris College to continue his academic career.
“Programs like this is how I got to Morris College,” the scholar stated.
Considered to be a leader to nearly 80 students within the recreation administration department, Kelley leads by example and is involved in a number of organizations and volunteer groups. He also works part-time at a local group home and spends his summer months as a camp counselor to the youth.
“As a student here at Morris I’m introduced to different things and different qualities and I meet people from different walks of life”
The honors student credits Morris College and its faculty and staff for helping to prepare him for all of the real-world experiences.
“I appreciate the faculty and staff here for giving me an insight on what the real world looks like, based off of the curriculum that they provide here.”
His professor Reverend Jerome McCray speaks highly of his character and believes Kelley is a true inspiration to his peers.
"I find Mr. Kelley to be a bright, articulate, honest, and energetic young man. He knows how to anticipate requirements, plan, organize, coordinate and get things done in an efficient and timely manner as the President of the Recreation Administration Club.”
He also praised the student leader for his impact on society, “Mr. Kelley is admired both on and off campus and is very active in the campus community.”
His trip to the SCRPA conference was not his first time advocating for his passion. In May of 2018, he traveled to Washington, D.C. and advocated for “Communities in Schools.” There he met with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), as a representative of the Alumni Leadership Advisory Committee to pledge financial support for the afterschool program.
Mr. Kelley says he plans to continue to grow, network and advocate for the change that the world needs, through youth and community outreach.
“I know that I can impact many children outside of the classroom, just by reaching my community and showing them there are many other ways out here to express yourself and to better things.”
Overall, Kelley understands that opportunities come to those who create them. Therefore he uses his time wisely to help push forward a positive image to the community, through the community, by being the example.