The daughter of missionaries, Keliy Grobbelaar, ’20, has experienced a lot. Living all over the world helped her develop a great sense of cultural inclusivity and a passion for people from all backgrounds.
“I’ve always been the kind of person who believes the best way to show people that you love them is to take a walk in their shoes. Even though you can’t fully understand everything that they go through, you can show them that you care,” said Keliy.
When she transferred to Meredith, Keliy did just that. She moved into an immigrant and refugee community. And that experience has helped with her thesis, which is on interfaith and immigration.
“It’s given me a little bit more personal context for what people actually go through,” said Keliy. “I don’t do well with detached things. I am an experiential learner. I have to get into it to learn.”
At Meredith, Keliy deepened her interests and passions. Through a class she took as a religious and ethical studies major, she discovered an interest in interfaith work. That led her to plan an Interfaith Fair. Faith organizations and religious groups from all over the area were invited.
The purpose of the fair was to raise money for the International Justice Mission, the largest anti-human trafficking organization in the world – a cause that is very important to Keliy.
“I moved to Ghana when I was 17 to work for an organization that rescues children from child slavery. I worked in the rehabilitation village. They would bring the rescued kids into the village and we would work with getting them back on their feet,” said Keliy. “That experience was one of the most challenging, but one of the most impactful. It shaped the person I am today.”
One of the things she enjoys most about Meredith is how it embraces people from different backgrounds and religions, which is why Keliy served with Better Together, an interfaith organization, and supported the Meredith International Association (MIA). One of her favorite experiences was the MIA Fashion Show.
“Seeing the way everyone was celebrating each woman as they came out and the confidence each woman had in themselves and in their country was really cool,” said Keliy. “I had never been in an environment where everyone was cheering for and celebrating their beauty and culture. That was very powerful.”
Keliy practices acceptance in her own life. Every month, she gets together with four of her closest friends, who are Muslim, and they read the Bible and Quran together and talk. Building those friendships have been key to Keliy’s Meredith experience.
“That is something that happened through Meredith and interfaith work. I was too scared to do this type of thing before I took my Interfaith Leadership class with Dr. Suarez. I learned how to have those dialogues.”
Margarita Suarez, professor of religious and ethical studies has been one of the most influential people during Keliy’s time at Meredith. Suarez introduced her to interfaith work and challenged her to think through things more deeply.
Shannon Grimes, professor and head of the religious and ethical studies department, has been her biggest supporter and encouraged her to apply to graduate school.
“I didn’t think I would ever go to college. And when I started college, I didn’t think I would ever finish. I never even considered graduate school. For Dr. Grimes to tell me I have what it takes academically, but more than that, that because of who I am as a person, that I can do it, was impactful for me.”
After graduation, Keliy will be attending Campbell University Divinity School, where she will receive a Master of Divinity in counseling. Keliy plans to pursue a career in international social justice, specializing in fighting for women’s and children’s rights.
Before coming to Meredith, Keliy spent a few months living in South Africa, her parents’ home country, where she worked with different organizations that serve families and children living in poverty. That inspired her future career.
“I found my voice again at Meredith. Coming to Meredith and feeling like my voice was heard and valued, my thoughts were important, and I am accepted for my differences has been impactful. I’ve learned to think for myself and to be a strong woman.”