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Tracy Reilly Kelly, 2008 Woman of Achievement

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Tracy Reilly Kelly, 2008 Woman of Achievement

Tracy Reilly-Kelly, 2008 Woman of Achievement

Her colleagues will tell you that few people can match the focus and dedication exhibited by Woman of Achievement Tracy Reilly Kelly. Whether it is teaching a human sexuality class or coordinating Clark College’s Mature Learning program, Tracy “embodies respectful communication and strives to understand others as well as herself,” wrote her nominator.

Tracy was born and raised in Chicago, Ill. In 1968, she and her family moved to the Bay Area, where she attended Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek, Calif.

This move set the stage for what Tracy’s nominator referred to as, “a lifelong commitment to social justice work,” influenced in part by her parents’ involvement in civil rights groups and her own involvement in the anti-war movement.

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Tracy had always wanted to be a teacher but says her pragmatic nature set in. She had attended San Francisco State University but then discovered the Pacific Northwest and moved to Southwest Washington. Not knowing where to attend college, Tracy discovered The Evergreen State College’s degree program offered at Clark College – a discovery that marked the beginning of her ongoing affiliation with Clark. She graduated in 1977 with a bachelor of arts in human services. She went on to enroll in Clark’s registered nursing program and, as she neared completion, discovered she was pregnant. She quit the program before completing her nursing degree but went on to achieve her dream of becoming an educator.

“I was volunteering at Planned Parenthood when AIDS came along. It was an opportunity for me to become involved in teaching,” she explained. During the 1980s and 1990s, Tracy worked as a health educator for the Southwest Washington Health District’s HIV/AIDS program. Clark College physical education professor Gaydena Thompson brought Tracy back to the college – this time, as an educator. In the 18 years since she returned to the college, Tracy has taught health and human sexuality, women’s studies and lectured on infection control and nutrition through Clark’s business and industry program.

In her current role as program manager for Mature Learning and Continuing Education, Tracy finds herself in the position of administrator – a shift in keeping with her love of education. “I love working with people who believe in education so deeply,” she explained. “I love directly teaching, but now I also love being a producer of education. To stand in the back of the room and watch everything come together – making that happen – is such a big deal to me.  I consider it a great honor to work with senior citizens – it is a very gracious world.”

It is the combination of education and opportunity that positioned Tracy to follow her dream of being a teacher and to impact countless lives.  Tracy says her most significant professional accomplishment is “being able to affect peoples’ lives through education – and knowing that I have made an impact on hundreds of students’ lives because of the messages I’ve brought to them.”

In keeping with her love of healthy lifestyles, Tracy volunteers her services as a cook for fundraising events in the community.  “It’s like producing courses,” she said. “I’m the one who creates the idea and keeps everybody working.” 

“A friend of mine told me, ‘You’re always working – even when we’re out attending events,’” Tracy recalls. “And she’s right – because everyone is a potential part of Clark College. I truly believe that.”

Tracy says being named a Woman of Achievement is a huge honor, one that confirms her life’s work. “If I’m being recognized for doing service to others,” she said, “it means my life is about what I hope it is about.”

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