Amanda Kelley, a senior at Johnson Senior High School, knows what it is like to face continued hardships with courage and poise. At three years old, her father died leaving her mom to support her and her brother on a minimum wage job. Losing her dad at an early age and living under the stress of poverty made it difficult for Amanda to make friends and fit in. Then, this introverted girl faced a new challenge: juvenile arthritis. Aching joints in her fingers made her writing illegible. Her swollen knees meant she couldn’t run or keep up in gym, and the arthritis even affected her jaw to the point that she required surgery.
With few friends and living in a dangerous neighborhood, Amanda stayed close to home when school was out. She looks back on her middle school years philosophically: “I was a nerd. I had glasses and always had my nose in a book. I refused to change because that was who I was, but most people don’t want a friend who is a nerd.”
In high school friendships came more easily. But then a new tragedy struck. Amanda’s mom was diagnosed with colon cancer. Amanda worried about what would happen to her if her mom died. Since then her mom’s cancer has spread to her lungs and affected her heart, leaving her short of breath and unable to do many activities.
Amanda helps take care of her mom and the housework, in addition to keeping up with her schoolwork and extra-curricular activities. Amanda now has friends to talk to, has learned to pace herself to keep the arthritis in check, works hard to reach her educational goals, and connects with organizations like Admission Possible and her church to find support. She’s even learning guitar and dance. Her nominator wrote that she is “caring, smart, reliable, a hard worker and a budding author and poet.”
Next fall, Amanda’s first choice for college is St. Catherine University, where she plans on majoring in pre-law and psychology, perhaps becoming a lawyer or psychiatrist. Amanda is indeed smart, caring, and tough and will undoubtedly succeed with grace and grit.