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Kelly Castro: For the Betterment and Enhancement of Children’s Lives

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When the graduates of 2020 were told that–due to safety issues in the wake of a global pandemic–they would not be celebrating a public prom or graduation ceremony in Hernando County, Resilient Hernando nominee Kelly Castro felt compelled to help the kids; spearheading the planning and presentation of both events. Both milestones in the lives of young people. 

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Her motivation was simple. Throughout her life and career, helping kids is what Kelly Castro does.

“I’m always looking for kids to help,” she said. “And I’m always looking for ways to help them. Especially this year, when students have missed so much.”

“And for many high school seniors,” she said. “It hasn’t felt like senior year.”

Yet by coordinating prom and graduation celebrations in 2020, Castro aimed to give them back that feeling.

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The Prom Event, “A Starry Night on the Hill,” was celebrated June 13, 2020 at Barrington Hills Farm. 

“It was a beautiful prom in a place on 50 acres, where they hold weddings. Students stepped through those double doors in all their formal finery,” she said. “And this prom represented mixed high schools.”

“They could celebrate together,” she said. “It’s very special.”

The committee members working alongside Castro were Rory Killingsworth, Michelle Thompson, Jennifer Fareri, Kristina Whiting, Castro’s husband Peter Castro, and their children. 

“I could not do any of the things I do without my family’s support,” said Castro. “They are always willing to jump in and help me no matter how crazy my ideas!  There were also numerous community businesses that made generous donations.” 

The graduation events were celebrated on July 31, Aug 1, and Aug. 2 in downtown Brooksville. Guest speakers and event sponsors included Judge Kristie Healis, Charles Helm, John Mitten, Beth Nervaud, Dr. Brian Dahmer, David Bailey, Jerry Campbell, Doug Chorvat, Sheriff Al Nienhuis, and many others.  

“The graduation was held outside, with masks, hand sanitizers, and precautions in place,” said Castro. “We read each graduate’s name, like a traditional graduation ceremony. And student representatives from each class spoke.”

Each graduate was permitted to invite a limited number of family members, and photos were taken.

“The kids and their families were so thankful,” she said. “So happy.”

Also thankful were the many community members who appreciate Castro’s efforts–including Teri Nichols, License Owner of Spherion Staffing in Brooksville.

“I want to nominate Kelly Castro for the selfless work she has done on behalf of the Graduates of the Class of 2020,” wrote Nichols in her nomination letter. “Along with other community partnerships that she has built, she was able to host a prom and graduation ceremonies for all 5 Hernando County high schools. These are events that were cancelled for this year (2020) due to COVID.”  

This marks the latest step in Kelly Castro’s lifelong journey; a journey with a destination that always involves the betterment and enhancement of children’s lives.

A recruitment coordinator of Career Source Pasco Hernando and youth coordinator of Career Source’s Pasco Hernando Workforce Board, she is the administrator of the Facebook Page known as Adopt a Hernando County High School Senior.

“You can go to the group and agree to buy gifts and gift cards for students who need them,” she said.

Castro spearheads efforts to aid homeless students in the community.

“Not enough people are aware of this problem,” she said.

This proud mom and foster mom is heavily involved in the annual Student Recognition Celebration sponsored by CETA (Chamber Education Training Association) at the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce. And she is a contributor to and supporter of a Hernando Adopting Teachers drive, to help teachers get much-needed classroom supplies.

“Helping kids overcome their challenges is my passion,” she said.

And if the kids of Hernando once again find themselves without a prom or graduation ceremony, Kelly Castro will be there.

“We stepped up last year, and we did it,” she said. “And, if needed, we can make it happen again.” 

And Nichols has faith that, when it comes to the students of Hernando County, Castro will always step up to the plate.

“Her personal, tireless efforts are very appreciated, and I think she is the epitome of resiliency against all odds for the greater good of our community,” said Nichols. “I’m proud to know her!”

Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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