Story by Lydia Delkamiller ’19

One of the first things that Marian girls learn in their freshman theology class is the six core values of Marian – after the icebreakers, of course. The six values — Compassion, Community, Spirituality, Service, Marian Identity and Empowerment — provide students with a foundation for the next four years of high school, goals to live out and an aspiration for who they want to become.

Kelly Kunkel is a teacher in Colombia, South America. She graduated from Marian in 2008, but empowerment and community, two of Marian’s core values, are still extremely evident in her life. Kunkel’s two main activities at Marian were campus ministry and swimming. Among the many skills learned in school, she says confidence shaped her into who she is today, because she is able to speak up and be excited about learning and leading. During high school, Kunkel was set on being a pediatrician, until Ms. Kathy Tocco, her theology teacher, noticed her talent for teaching before Kelly knew it herself. Kunkel began her career in Omaha but later moved to Colombia when offered a job. She has been teaching elementary language arts, math, science, and social studies in Colombia for four years now. Classes are all in the English language at the private school Colegio Karl C. Parrish.

Kunkel has had to learn how to balance family, work and faith. “It’s tricky,” she said. “Learn as you go. If I focus too much on one, the others suffer. It is about finding balance. Take a step back, and find what is most important, and how all three fit in your life,” Kunkel said.

Family has always been there to support Kunkel, especially her dad. He has reminded her throughout her journey that the littlest things can make you the happiest, such as the people in your life, not the material. Today, she knows this to be true.

Kunkel has also learned an abundance through the children she teaches. She has learned that you can be happier with so much less and that giving love to everyone is the most important act. On one occasion, her phone was stolen. Initially Kunkel didn’t know how to go on, but later she realized, “the person who took my phone needs it more than me,” Kunkel said, with a smile on her face, “and I need love more than material. Give love.”

Imagine moving to an entirely new country, with new people, a new job, a new culture and customs and only visiting home once a year. It can be hard to become a part of a different community. However, Kunkel has embraced the change and is proud of where she is and the children she teaches. “I see innocence and wonder and excitement in each of them. We are trying to mold into a compassionate future, and the future is them,” Kunkel said.

Kelly Kunkel embodies Marian’s six core values, especially empowerment and community. She is dedicated to teaching and making a difference. “Marian girls rule this world! They are powerful.” Kunkel is living this out and inspiring future generations with her talent and love for teaching.