Dallas College News Update

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For immediate release — Feb. 9, 2021

Contact: Debra Dennis; ddennis@dcccd.edu

(DALLAS) — She had to learn to walk, talk, feed herself and find room for optimism following a debilitating stroke.

Anyone who thought Nia Kelley could be easily written off did not consider what she had already gone through. In 2014, Kelley was close to her 14th year in business analytics, with nine technology patents and numerous awards for contributions to her field. She had amassed two degrees and was a published writer before an unexpected illness left her reeling.

“You have to have a strong work ethic,” said Kelley, who is currently majoring in apparel design at Dallas College El Centro Campus and hopes to complete her degree this year. “I worked hard and made a name for myself, but I’ve always had to prove myself in my career. I push myself. Quality work is associated with who I am. It’s my signature.“

With a passionate interest in fashion design, Kelley is stitching back the parts of her life that were weakened when the stroke forced her to give up the career she adored.

Kelley had an enviable career in the information technology industry where she held leadership roles in business systems analytics, project management, personnel management, business strategy and innovation, and technical software development.

Out of the question, too, was her work as a fitness instructor. There were basic lessons to master — how to learn and re-learn what many take for granted.

Kelley turned to sewing to help her cope with her new reality. She soon found that her hobby was therapeutic. Sewing also introduced the accomplished business manager to a new career.

Kelley never envisioned a career in fashion design, but now she loves her new passion. She has become adept in all technical aspects of the field, including computer aided design, pattern making, textiles and making prototypes for design concepts.

She credits the support she received at El Centro for leading her into a new career.

“This has been so uplifting as far as my recovery is concerned,” said Kelley, who holds an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and a graduate degree in software engineering. She has a graduate certificate in business analytics from Southern Methodist University.

“My speech has grown by leaps and bounds,” she said. “And I really feel challenged by my courses, and teachers are just the best. I feel so fortunate.”

Her drive is no surprise to her instructor, Brenda Carlson, a faculty member of El Centro’s fashion design program.

“I’ve been so moved with Nia’s success stories after the stroke,” Carlson said. “I am so proud of all of her accomplishments. Nia is an incredible person who inspires me to be the best teacher I can be.”

Kelley is hoping to graduate this year with her second degree from El Centro. In 2020, she earned an associate degree in technical pattern design.

Her advice to others: Let your work speak for you.

“Just do your best, whatever that means to you. Set goals and achieve them to your standards, not according to anyone else,” she said.

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