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Centre stage

Spring folklore graduate discovers own voice on way to their degree

Part of a special feature celebrating and recognizing the Class of 2020 at Memorial.

By Terri Coles

At 14, Lee Kelly’s maternal grandmother sacrificed her education when her mother died.

The responsibility fell to her to take care of the family.

Decades later, the resident of Mount Pearl finished their BA in folklore with a sociology minor at Memorial University. They focused on the stories of queer people, Indigenous people and women – women like their grandmother.

But like many students, Kelly’s path to graduation was not linear. They graduated high school in 2012 with high grades but without a required math course.

Kelly attended the Discovery Centre for adults looking to complete or improve high school courses. It was a winning strategy. They successfully completed the course and enrolled at Memorial in September 2014.

Path to folklore

At Memorial, Kelly quickly discovered their interest in folklore and ethnographic research.

“I had an inkling that I would enjoy it, so I took the Intro to Folklore course, and I was hooked right away,” they said.

As a queer person who has a brother with special needs, Kelly wants to preserve and share marginalized people’s stories.

“I’m a big proponent of letting people’s voices be heard.” — Lee Kelly

With that in mind, they focused on courses on gender, Indigenous topics and women’s history.

“I’m a big proponent of letting people’s voices be heard,” Kelly said.

In order to continue that work, they are considering attending a journalism program. The ultimate goal is to combine folklore with writing.

Attending Memorial let Kelly continue their education. It also helped them grow up, they said.

They took a break from the university at one point and worked at a grocery store. But they returned with renewed focus and an academic niche.

The reward for putting in the hard work to graduate are confidence and assertiveness, Kelly says.

“I was kind of in the background. Now, I’m more willing to be centre stage in my own life.”

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