2024 Students of Distinction

Morgan Kelly nurtures global perspectives and environmental passion

Posted on May 9th, 2024 By: Joshua Eskew

Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles featuring the Students of Distinction being honored by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. These students will be celebrated during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.

Morgan Kelly 

School: Gig Harbor High School 

Category: Academic Achievement 

Although she is still finishing high school, Morgan Kelly has already begun her career as a world traveler.

For her junior year, this Gig Harbor High student travelled to Jinjeop, South Korea, an experience she considers to be truly formative in her education. Her travels, she says, helped her think about the interconnectedness of people and their environments, fueling her passion for developing new solutions to the problems facing her community and world.  

While abroad, Morgan became conversational in Korean and thought deeply about how her actions are connected to her larger environment. Her exploration of a language very different from English left her with a greater appreciation for the diverse ways people express themselves.

Although she didn’t get to see BTS, the group practically synonymous with the K-Pop genre, she left South Korea hoping to return. Within the next decade, she hopes to have finished her degree and to have spent even more time abroad, perhaps as an English teacher in one of South Korea’s busy urban centers. 

Morgan Kelly

 Passion for environmentalism 

Whatever she does, Morgan knows that she will be motivated by a love of learning for its own sake. She intends to major in environmental science, pursuing the passion for environmentalism that began when, as a third grader, she began participating in the Harbor WildWatch program.

Through her involvement in this program, she has been a longtime participant in Peninsula-area conservation projects. She also hopes to use her college experience to study Korean more intensely while perhaps picking up another language.

She credits her ability to pursue so many goals simultaneously to both careful planning and flexibility. While she maintains a clear sense of what she wants to accomplish, she is also always aware that things might not go according to plan. So, whether in the classroom or out traveling the world, Morgan tries to keep an open mind so that she can make the most of each opportunity that presents itself.

Morgan Kelly

Category: Academic Achievement 

GPA: 4.0; class ranking 1/370 

Parents: Samantha Kelly 

Achievements/Activities: 13 AP/Honors/College Courses; Seal of Biliteracy in Korean; Two Varsity Letters in Community Service; National Society of High School Scholars; Gig Harbor High School National Honor Society; Rotary Youth Exchange Student and Ambassador; Zoo Guide Interpreter at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium; Volunteer at Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital through Sea Turtle Camp; Gig Harbor Environmental Community Outreach (GHECO) member; Key Club member and Secretary; Korean language and culture student at Asia Pacific Cultural Center; Korean School of Federal Way; Rotary District 5020 Youth Exchange Committee American Rotex Representative; Volunteer Counselor at YMCA Camp Seymour 

Favorite Teacher: “My favorite teacher is my sophomore year AP Seminar teacher, Mrs. Kealy. She encouraged me not only to improve my writing skills, but to find and pursue tangible passion and emotion in my essays and research. Mrs. Kealy challenged me to break this mold and find ways to apply my own passions for environmental science and social justice into every assignment. She prioritized analyzing sources collaboratively so we could hear and understand a web of ideas greater than our own perspectives. More than that, I could tell that Mrs. Kealy valued my opinions and thoughts, particularly in class seminars and discussions, always giving me a personal platform to share, or making sure to circle back to the most insightful, deep ideas when they had not been fully digested. She provided me many opportunities to push myself beyond what was necessary, look beneath the surface, and maximize my potential for learning and growth.” 

Best thing about high school: While having an unconventional high school experience, spending only one year attending classes in person due to COVID-19, Rotary Youth Exchange Program, and Running Start, Morgan notes that Gig Harbor High School allowed her to pursue academic and personal goals to their fullest extent through study abroad, dual enrollment, advanced courses, and various extracurriculars. “One of the best things about my high school experience has been having a caring and invested counselor, Mrs. Ecklund, who has made sure that even when I am not attending classes at Gig Harbor High School, I feel connected to my school. This school is a place where my values, passions, and interests thrive. I have been and am able to connect with groups of people that share my values and passions inside and outside of the classroom. At Gig Harbor High School, I am grateful to have found belonging, purpose, and passion inside the school walls and beyond.”