Date: May 11, 2021
(By Lisa Garrett)
Kelsey McNeely Finds Strong Support System at Tri-County Technical College
ANDERSON, SC - Longtime Tri-County Technical College Career Counselor Butch Merritt says Kelsey McNeely has all the qualities and characteristics that will make her an effective and impactful professional counselor.
“She is an active listener and she is open and accepting. And, she is empathetic,” Merritt said about McNeely, who will graduate May 11 with an associate in arts degree and will transfer to Clemson University. Her goal is to become a clinical psychologist.
McNeely says she is dedicated to being to other children what she needed when she was a child, living in single-parent home where she says negligence and drug abuse in the household led to her being placed in multiple foster care homes. As an adolescent she struggled with mental health issues and sexual abuse that led to self-harm and several suicide attempts. “Back then I didn’t want to be alive,” she said.
“I just always wanted to be happy and find a purpose in my life,” she added.
She has found both and wants to guide others to find theirs.
“A good, caring counselor can do that,” she said.
So can a strong support system, which she found at Tri-County Technical College’s Anderson Campus after enrolling there after graduating from Westside High School two years ago.
She took advantage of free tutoring, which resulted in excelling in her studies and a spot on the President’s List (all A’s).
Education wasn’t always a priority for McNeely, who was placed into foster care beginning at age eight. She later returned to her mother’s home for a short while until going to live with her older brother for a year. Her grades were poor –until she entered the 10th grade and came to the realization that education was her way out.
She made all A’s and B’s her sophomore year and by the junior and senior years, she was making all A’s. “I set a goal. I wanted to feel better about myself. It was personal,” she said.
She took a dual enrollment class her senior year and aced it.
Suddenly college became a possibility.
Tri-County’s Anderson Campus was close to her home so she enrolled.
“I surprised myself. With guidance and a tutor, I learned how to be a better student. I learned how to learn,” she said.
“Tri-County was the best choice for me. It gave me a foundation. Now I don’t need tutors, I can do it on my own. I learned how to be a college student,” said McNeely, who also is a work-study student.
She credits her success to the smaller classes, along with caring instructors and tutors who became mentors.
“Every time I have a question, I think of Butch Merritt,” she said.
“Kelsey is smart and determined and pushes herself. She won’t settle for anything less than an A. She learned that a lot of college is honing your interpersonal skills, asking questions and listening. She has done very well,” said Merritt.
Debbie Thrasher has no doubt that she will continue her success in her studies at Clemson. “Kelsey hasn’t let life get in her way. She knows what kids are going through because she struggled herself. She hasn’t accepted what life handed her. Instead she wants more and has grown leaps and bounds and will graduate from TCTC with a 4.0 GPA,” said Thrasher.
“I’ve worked hard in my studies and on myself. I want to turn my negatives into somebody’s positives,” said McNeely. “I was alone a lot as a child. I grew up quickly. It made me resilient. From birth to 18, it was a learning experience with lots of trial and error on everyone’s part. At age 20, I have a different life ahead of me. I have accomplished a lot and I am looking ahead,” she said.
“Kelsey is a very considerate and compassionate young lady. She takes her work-study position here at the Anderson Campus very seriously and is always willing to assist me and others whenever needed,” said Jo Ann Fant, the campus’s office manager. “I am so very proud of Kelsey and the achievements she’s accomplished while earning the associate in arts degree.”
McNeely and her fiancé recently bought a home that they are renovating.
There will be lots of photos taken on graduation day because she wants to remember the moment – the day she thought would never happen. “I will hang the photos in my new house and send everybody a copy,” she said.
“I will be sad when I leave Tri-County. It feels like home and it’s hard to find places that feel like home to me. Everyone supports each other. It’s like a big family. It’s what every work place should be,” said McNeely.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, her goal is to earn a master’s degree and become a licensed professional counselor. “I want to work in clinical psychology with children,” she said.
After graduating, she plans to work at a mental health office and later own her own practice.
“Kelsey will do well at Clemson and one of these days she may come back and work at Tri-County,” said Merritt.
About Tri-County Technical College
Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities. To learn more, visit tctc.edu.