June 18, 2012
Y'ALL Winner: Accomplishments Only Exceeded by Enthusiasm
As the fourth Face of Y’ALL (Young Alumni Leaving a Legacy) winner, Columbia native Michelle Parsons Kelley, ’04, ’07, enjoys opportunities to exceed expectations.
“I’m excited and thrilled to be the newest Face of Y’ALL,” she said. “I knew Joey Bowers, ’04
, the first Face of Y’ALL (along with Emily Stowe Leaphart, ‘03
), so I hope to continue the enthusiasm that Y’ALL brings to our young alumni.”
Kelley, who is married to fellow Carolina graduate Jay Kelley
, will represent USC’s graduates over the past decade at University-related events and as the Face of Y’ALL. A litigation attorney for the Columbia firm of Richardson, Plowden & Robinson, P.A., Kelley graduated Magna Cum Laude
from the South Carolina Honors College with a degree in political science. She received a National Merit Scholarship and other scholarships that made her choice simple.
“The full scholarship, combined with the quality of a South Carolina Honors College education, were the determining factors in why I chose Carolina,” she said. “It was a real treat because they have such a diverse array of Honors classes. It’s no surprise they were recently recognized as the top Honors College at a public university.”
Following Honors College graduation, Kelley and two fellow graduates accomplished in three years what normally takes four: receiving their master’s in public administration and their juris doctorate degrees from the USC School of Law in 2007. Those friends, Matt Gerrald, ’04, ’07
, and Wyman Bowers, ’07
, are also attorneys practicing in Columbia.
The Importance of Giving Back
Kelley believes in the power of giving: She is the statewide Chair of the Cinderella Project, which gathers prom dresses and donates them to any high school student with a need—free of charge. The Columbia area alone offered a half-dozen sites from which 472 prom dresses were donated in one day.
“I am very proud of our work with the Cinderella Project,” she said. “It’s such an amazing example of how Columbia residents will band together to help each other.”
Aware of the University’s $1 billion Carolina’s Promise
capital campaign, including the importance of endowed scholarships, Kelley said receiving a full scholarship as a Carolina Legal Scholar was critical in her decision to attend the USC School of Law. She hopes all young alumni will support Carolina’s Promise, as each gift makes an impact.
“I think a lot of us take great pride in being a Gamecock,” she said. “We’ve received so many educational benefits and gifts from our time as students at Carolina. It’s a wonderful thing when we’re able to give back in any way, and financial support for our University is one of the most important ways to make a difference.”
Y’ALL Project of Humanitarian Proportion
Among the many Face of Y’ALL activities to which she’ll be engaged, Kelley is interested in helping to initiate a video campaign introducing the public to USC alumni around the world who are making a difference with their humanitarian contributions.
“I find all humanitarian work to be intriguing and inspiring,” she said. “For me personally, I’ve always been very interested in women’s and children’s issues in South Carolina. I want to produce something that shows where some of our most amazing and dedicated graduates have ended up and highlight their humanitarian efforts, as another way to give us pride in being a Carolinian.”
A humanitarian-related project is a significant undertaking by anyone’s estimation, but just another among many that Kelley embraces. Active in many leadership roles, she is a commissioner on the South Carolina Commission on Women, an appointed advisor to the South Carolina Federal Credit Union Board of Advisors, and is a member of American Mensa, Women in law, the Columbia Capital Rotary Club, and the Junior League of Columbia. In early 2012, she was recognized as a Rising Star by South Carolina Super Lawyers.
Kelley and her husband have a son, Gus, age 6 months, who like her, will have the benefit of growing up in Columbia. “I’ve been going to Gamecock games as long as I can remember and it always feels good to wear my garnet and black.”
–Larry Di Giovanni, Development Communications