Still, Kelly - now a senior at the Washington County Career Studies Center - said she couldn't have gotten where she is today if she hadn't kept trying her best.
Kelly's determined efforts to do well in school and contribute to her community combined with her essay on employing people with disabilities won her a statewide award she'll receive in Baltimore today.
A $2,000 scholarship goes along with the 1997 Youth With a Disability Award, presented by the Governor's Committee for the Employment of People with a Disability.
Kelly, 17, said she plans to use the scholarship to become a registered nurse, hopefully in a children's hospital.
She entered the Career Studies Center's health occupations program with plans to become a physical therapist, but said she changed her mind once she started working as a certified nursing assistant at Avalon Manor Nursing Home in Hagerstown.
"I've gotten to see what they do, the inside picture," said Kelly, who said she really enjoys helping people.
In sixth grade, Kelly started volunteering in a nursing home.
The positive experience convinced her of the value of community service, she said.
That led to her involvement with Youth RISE, a statewide group that lobbied for Maryland's Student Service Learning requirement, said Kelly, who represents Washington County in the group.
During the last two years, Kelly has been very involved in Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA).
In June, she'll represent Maryland in HOSA's national competition in California.
She's also very active in her church, St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Halfway, where she serves as a Sunday School substitute and hopes to serve on the Pastoral Council.
Kelly said her love for people and strong beliefs have pushed her into becoming involved in all kinds of different things over the years.
"I've never been a shy person," she said. "I've never wanted to stand back."
Doing well in school is something new, however.
Since coming to the Career Studies Center, Kelly said she has gotten good grades - even made the honor roll a few times - thanks to its different approach in teaching.
Between the hands-on learning on the vocational side and the integration of career interests into academic subjects, school has been really interesting, she said.
Kelly said she's proud of how far she has come over the years, proven by the award she'll receive today.
"I look back, I and I think, `How did I even have time for this?'" she said.
Kelly said on Thursday that she was planning to attend the awards luncheon in Baltimore with her parents, Dennis and Teresa Kelly.