As an 8-year-old child, Shannon Kelly did not know what Diabetes was. He only knew that was the name of the illness that almost killed his mother.
When Kelly arrived at Spanish Springs High School from Washington state to begin his freshman year, he grew much more aware of the disease when the topic of stem cells arose in a science class. He consulted his teacher to find out just what the cells could be capable of.
“My freshman year, we started talking about bioengineering and talking about stem cells and my teacher told me stem cells don’t have a function in relation to other cells,” Kelly said. “I want to be that person to give stem cells a function to help repair those things. If I can’t cure diabetes then I want give stem cells that ability.”
Kelly, now in his senior year, said his aspirations to become a scientist are not the only piece of his life that is fueled by his parents. As the 17-year-old balances a course load filled with three Advanced Placement classes and completing college and scholarship applications, Kelly said he has a work-first attitude at home to keep him on track.
“My parents are always telling me that I have to work much harder than everyone else and my dad has always said ‘if you don’t have your work done you’re not going anywhere,’” he said. “He wants me to do better than he did, so that is my motivation because he has been through a lot.”
Kelly is currently seeking a baseball scholarship that has him entering his third year as an outfielder for Spanish Springs High and playing on a traveling club team in the offseason. He said the traveling team has provided a way to keep his skills sharp and market his name to other coaches.
Kelly said the coach he is yearning to impress resides in Prairie View, Texas at his dream school Prairie View A&M University. Kelly said the school would immerse him in a new environment for him to prove himself.
“It is a historically black college and I have never been around only black people so it would be a culture shock,” Kelly said. “I want to give that lifestyle a chance and see how I react to it. I also just want the opportunity to go off to college and be on my own and see how I do. I don’t want to just be at home my whole life, I want to try something different.”
Kelly received a small dose of the immersion he seeks when he joined the African American Club at Spanish Springs High. He has helped the club participate in Trick-or-Treat in the Halls, cook up soul food for other students to sample and bring in “step teams” to perform at the school.
Kelly said his free time is often spent creative writing and forming lyrics he uses to rap. Though he said he “couldn’t live that lifestyle,” in reference to the musical profession, it keeps him level-headed when everything else fails.
“It’s just something I do for fun. I recorded one song just to see how it sounds, but it is really just my escape,” Kelly said. “If I can’t go to the gym, or I’m not at practice and I am feeling mad or sad, I will just write lyrics just to do it. It’s something I do for me.”