When Ivy Kellenberger, a graduate of Sussex County Community College and senior at Centenary University, makes up her mind to do something, there’s nothing that can hold her back.
The 20-year-old single mother has earned numerous prestigious scholarships at Centenary University, where she is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Education—English, with a special education certification. But getting to this point wasn’t always easy.
In 2017, Ivy was a 17-year-old honors student at Sussex County Technical School. She was also pregnant. Her dedication to school and outstanding grades meant that she could graduate a full year early and she knew she had to take the opportunity.
Ivy had already earned 12 college credits through Sussex County Community College’s Jump Start program, which she began taking classes virtually upon graduation. Her pregnancy was difficult, and though she was in and out of the hospital, she finished her first semester with all A’s.
She gave birth to her daughter, Harlee, who will be three years old in December, a day after the semester ended.
Her personal life during her years at Sussex were chaotic. Not only was she raising a baby while attending college, but she was also the victim of domestic abuse.
“My time was often spent focusing on how I could better my future as well as my daughter’s,” she said.
At a time, where support mattered most, Sussex provided her with encouragement and motivation, she said: “In those two years, I came into contact with professors who inspired me greatly and personnel that encouraged me to keep pushing despite how hard it had been.”
Ivy became the first person in her family to graduate from college, with high honors nonetheless, when she earned her associate degree from Sussex County Community College in August 2019. With that graduation, she reached two major goals.
“Just after I graduated SCCC, I made a decision that would forever change our lives for the better,” Ivy said. “I had gained the academic advantage I truly needed at that time in my life, as well as the courage and will to become a single mother.”
Talk about overcoming challenges. Ivy recalls that her first semester at Centenary had not gone so smoothly. She was faced with many obstacles and family commitments. As always, Ivy responded as she always does, with resilience, determination and the will to succeed.
Her efforts have been duly recognized. Among the scholarships she has been awarded was a prestigious $2,500 Belle Ella Boutique Empowerment Scholarship from Bella Ella Boutique, a Utah-based online women’s boutique. The scholarship recognizes college women who have overcome adversity to pursue their dreams through higher education.
When she’s not studying or enjoying time with her daughter, Ivy works at a telecommunications education program that empowers students who are incarcerated. She and Harlee share their home with two new puppies they adopted over the summer.
Sussex takes pride in helping students in difficult circumstances. To learn more about Sussex and its programs, visit sussex.edu.