Her whole life, Dr. Jenny Kelly has thrived in small communities. She earned her general education credits at Leeward Community College after a taste of life at large universities. As a zoology major in the cozy upper division at UH Mānoa, she completed her bachelor’s degree. When she earned her doctorate in veterinary medicine at Purdue University, her graduating class of 60 was half the size of classes at other veterinary schools. Now she directs Hawai‘i’s only veterinary technology program at Windward Community College, where she says “everyone does his or her part—everyone volunteers and tries to be a part of it.”
Kelly’s path wasn’t a straight shot from the tiny North Shore neighborhood of Pupukea to running the vet tech program in Kāne‘ohe. A year on exchange in Puerto Rico, two years teaching at Leilehua High School, and an equine internship in Florida were stops along the scenic route whose highlight may have been a residency in Canada. “Never say never,” she advises. “I didn’t look for schools in the far north because I like it warm! Then I found myself treating reindeer in Saskatchewan!”
Instead of llamas and lambs in the frozen north, Kelly now nurtures Hawai‘i’s students on their way to being credentialed veterinary technicians. Here, as they learn to assist veterinary physicians during surgeries and other procedures, she draws upon her own experiences as a Leeward CC student.
“One of my science instructors at Leeward took us on all kinds of field trips; we even went whale-watching on his boat,” she says. “It was a wonderful, grounding experience. I didn’t feel out of place; it was home, and I enjoyed it immensely.” Today, Kelly brings her expertise with large animals, offering field trips for hands-on experience as her instructors once did for her.
“I’ve always been one to gravitate toward the focused and smaller aspects of things,” she says. “Students at Windward know their faculty on a one-to-one basis. We have a mutual relationship: my goal is to graduate students who are confident and capable technicians, so their success is our success.”