A local woman lost her daughter to a sudden sickness, but she has turned that negative into a positive for the youth in the community. Losing a child is a parent's worst nightmare, but one local woman is being recognized for turning her personal loss into a gain for students on the Gulf Coast. Robyn Tennyson, the Branch Manager of Kelly Services, says, "We are honoring one of our substitues, Keren Morrel-Kiernan, for National Kelly Educational Substitute of the Year and she won over 20,000 nominations in 35 states that we service, so it's a huge honor." Keren Morrel-Kiernan’s state and national recognition came with the help of her students who wrote letters explaining why the woman they affectionately call "Mama K" is so special.
Sariah Nettles, a third grade student, says, "I wrote my letter it said, ‘Miss Keren should be staff of the year because she helps us a lot and she's very nice and compliments us a lot.’" Kiernan says that after losing her daughter, Shae, to a sudden case of M.R.S.A., her experiences with students have been priceless. Kiernan also says, "My family has been through so much, but we've been blessed so much." This is the year Kiernan’s daughter, Shae, would have graduated from high school, and it's what she told her mother just before her passing that keeps her motivated in her mission to help Gulf Coast kids. Kiernan also says, "A month before my daughter passed away, we were blessed to have our house paid off and she said, ‘Now Mom, you can do what you were supposed to do.’"
And that she has. Kiernan opened a youth center in her daughter's honor in addition to taking up teaching and coaching along the Coast. Sierra Byrd, another third grade student, says, "She made us achieve goals and she made us learn how to do more sports that we wanted to do like basketball and soccer." Kiernan is honored to be Kelly Services' top substitute and is thankful for the community support she has received through her emotional time. Kiernan closes, "It just...it all started with a vision.” Kelly Services provides substitute teachers to nine school districts on the Coast.