Waubonsee Community College Names Gomez-Kelley a “Fabulous 40” Alumna
Sugar Grove — Recognizing an extraordinary and difficult path to success, Waubonsee Community College is honoring Leticia “Letty” Gomez-Kelley as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni.
Letty Gomez-Kelley, seen here at Delnor Hospital where she is a nurse, has been recognized by Waubonsee Community College as a “Fabulous 40” alumna in conjunction with the college’s 40th anniversary.
As part of the college’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration, Waubonsee is honoring 40 alumni and students who embody the mission, vision and values of the college. These individuals represent the diversity of Waubonsee’s students and the college district, as well as the diversity of the college’s mission as a comprehensive community college.
When she first came to the United States from Mexico, Gomez-Kelley could not have imagined that she would one day translate English to Spanish for recent immigrants. That’s because Gomez-Kelley, then 23 years old, didn’t speak a word of English.
Today, Gomez-Kelley is a nurse at Delnor Hospital and frequently translates for her patients — putting them at ease and ensuring proper health care. She is so driven in her work because she learned to speak English through Waubonsee’s tutoring, GED and English as a Second Language classes and understands the barriers created by a lack of communication.
Gomez-Kelley immigrated to the United States in 1992 with her husband, William, after meeting him at her job with Emerson in Guadalajara, Mexico. Gomez-Kelley’s mother-in-law, Dorothy Kelley, attended Waubonsee years earlier before transferring to Aurora University. She helped Gomez-Kelley enroll at Waubonsee to start learning English so they could communicate better.
While she attended Waubonsee for tutoring from 1992 to 1994, Gomez-Kelley was volunteer Ed Moore’s star pupil. Eventually, she enrolled at Aurora University and graduated with high honors — earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2004.
“Waubonsee had so many good teachers — both in the ESL and GED program,” she said. “They always treated me as an individual and were there to help me.”
Gomez-Kelley looks back on her start at Waubonsee as being a key moment in her life.
“Whatever success I enjoy, it’s because of where I started,” Gomez-Kelley said. “Because of Waubonsee, I’ve had so many opportunities.”
Her newly acquired language skills have played a significant role in her success, Gomez-Kelley said.
“Becoming educated in English can open new doors of opportunity for your future,” she said. “Knowing both languages is such a huge advantage.”
After graduation, Gomez-Kelley began work at Delnor Hospital. She has continued her education, earning certification in a variety of health specialties including critical care, advanced cardiac life support, trauma, and pediatric advanced life support.
“I frequently translate between patients and nurses on the intensive care unit. It brings me personal fulfillment to help other people,” she said. “The best part is looking at the patients’ faces and knowing that you are really helping.”
In her personal life, Gomez-Kelley teaches Sunday school, and both her and her husband are very active in the PTA in their children’s school. Gomez-Kelley and her husband live in Montgomery with their two children — Billy, age 13, and Elizabeth, age 9. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Elizabeth has tutored first graders who need help learning English.
“I’ve always been motivated, but here I’ve had the opportunity to succeed,” Gomez-Kelley said. “I haven’t done it all on my own. I’ve had a great support network behind me — from Waubonsee to my husband and children.”