Always the first one there and the last to leave, continuously asking insightful questions about all the topics. Unfailingly there to help another classmate. It was startlingly impressive to watch Kelly So’s self-confidence steadily grow.  

“The most important thing I learned in the Starkloff Career Academy that helped me get a job was polishing my interviewing skills —teaching me to be myself, confident and positive; how to rightfully own my disability during an interview.” 

Kelly came to the Career Academy with a BA in Social Work from UMSL. 

Armed with the skills she acquired in the Career Academy, Kelly landed a perfect job at Easter Seals Midwest as an Independent Living Advocate, where she has been working for the past year. The purpose of the organization is: Together, we are changing the way the world defines and views disability by making profound, positive differences in people’s lives every day. 

Asked how her disability makes her advice outstanding for others hoping to do the same, Kelly said that she is the first person with a disability at Easter Seals Midwest. “I thought this was really surprising.”  

“My most meaningful work experience is helping clients have better and more opportunities. To help them be more social and independent, to set goals for themselves and strive to achieve them.”  

Kelly has Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, a type of Muscular Dystrophy named after the three French physicians who first described it in 1886. She uses a power wheelchair and drives a van with hand controls. 

Kelly wants to be a strong role model for her daughter, who also has MD and uses a power wheelchair. “I want this to be easier for her.” 

“In class, she automatically stood out to me,” says Susan Menhard, Career Academy Director. “Kelly was not afraid to offer her opinions, striking up conversations with others in the course. Even with her happy demeanor and clever wit, she was undeniably a tenacious, determined, compassionate woman who’s task oriented,” Susan adds. “Candidates and instructors learned quite a bit about Kelly.” 

Kelly’s Words of Wisdom for new Career Academy students: “Be yourself, be patient and soak up all the knowledge. Be proud of who you are.” 

And Kelly is a Starkloff Career Academy graduate to learn from. 

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