Pamela Kelly remembers almost every significant event in her life — day, month and year. And that’s saying a lot. In the past seven decades, Kelly has been a nanny, a banker, a Christian minister, a wife, a mother, a widow, an advocate for migrants student and their families and more.
Now, she has a new date to add to her life story, May 22, 2021, the day she was awarded her bachelor’s degree.
At 73 years old, Kelly, is the most senior graduate in this year’s crop of bachelor’s degree recipients, earning her degree in Holistic Psychology. She says coming to Lesley was divinely inspired.
“I could not believe I was able to do this, but the Lord said that He would guide me through it,” she says.
A native of Honduras, Kelly arrived in the United States on Oct. 16, 1966 to work as a nanny in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Only 18 at the time, she picked up English on the fly, and remembers making $45 a week, $20 of which went back to the family to pay them back for her plane ticket.
“But I was happy because it was a new way of life, an opportunity that we didn’t have in Honduras,” she says.
Two years later and seeking warmer climes, Kelly moved to Miami. She got married on Aug 17, 1969 and worked at a department store before becoming a bank teller — an occupation she got by sheer determination and confidence since she didn’t have any relevant experience. Kelly moved up in the ranks, eventually moving to the Bank of Credit and Commerce International where she served as vice president the private banking department.
By now it was the late 1980s. Kelly was divorced and raising her daughter. She was a successful woman, but something was missing. One day at church, she says God called to her.
“The Lord was saying to me all the time that He didn’t call me to be a banker forever,” she says.
Kelly knew God wanted her to preach, and she wanted to listen but, “I had responsibilities. I had a house, I had a daughter, I had bills. I didn’t know how to realign from being an executive to being a Christian.”
Then the bank she worked for was indicted and the decision to leave was made for her. Although she grew up Catholic, Kelly says she truly became a Christian on Oct. 2, 1988.
A new vocation
Soon, Kelly and two other women, after fasting and praying, started the Hope of the World Church in Miramar, Florida. Three years later, she felt God lead her to the Belize Children’s Medical Foundation, followed by the Chance International Prayer Missions in Loxahachee, and in 2000, to Goose Creek, South Carolina, where she was a pastor with Soul Seekers International Prayer Band Ministries. Five years later she moved to Thomasville, Georgia to marry and minister with Pastor Fred Kelly, who later passed away in 2017.
In all this time, Kelly had slowly been working on her education. She attended night school to get her high school diploma, earned certificates in banking and an associate’s degree in business, but she had long dreamed of completing her bachelor’s degree.
After a health scare brought her back to Massachusetts to seek treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, she felt God telling her to finish her degree, specifically at Lesley. After seeing an advertisement for an open house for the Lesley Center for the Adult Learner (LCAL), she says, “God told me, this is the place.”
Mastering the technology aspect of education in the 21st century was a challenge for Kelly after years away from school, and she. She was often mistaken for a professor instead of a student. But she says, “Everyone was so helpful — my advisors, my teachers, my professors, my classmates. Everywhere I went, someone tried to help me, show me the way.”
Becoming a student in her 70s had its challenges but majoring in Holistic Psychology was a natural choice for Kelly “because of the love of helping people reach their maximum potential that is dormant in them,” she says.
For those that have no voice
Kelly has often found herself in the role of advocate and counselor.
“When I was in school in Honduras, kids used to come to me when someone wanted to take their ice cream money, to defend them. From a child, I used to be an advocate fighting for those that have no voice,” she says.
While in Georgia, Kelly worked as a migrant family intervention specialist mentoring middle and high school students and advocating for them in the Thomas County school system.
In 2008, she founded the Lion of Judah Wailing Women International, Inc. to “provide emotional and spiritual support through mentoring, networking, encouraging, and strengthening women while raising the standard of God’s truth.”
Combined with her work as a pastor, Kelly says her studies at Lesley will help her embrace her calling to share God’s word and love with others.
“We have to accept people where they are and just love them,” she says. “God loves you whatever state you’re in. I want people to realize that; stop hating one another, love never fails.”
Kelly also wants to point people toward God and hopes she can be a voice of truth and comfort.
“Through the Holistic Psychology education that I have obtained at Lesley University I look forward to combining my education with my pastoral calling,” says Kelly.
She is now has pursuing a degree in theological education.