DANVERS — Ever since she was a third-grader, Kelly Joy has been telling her parents she planned to enter the Peace Corps. A Smith Elementary School teacher who had served sparked the young girl’s desire to help others.
Joy’s childhood goal became the focus of her teenage and young adult life through various community service work. And in mid-January, she will depart for Thailand on a 27-month odyssey to become an education and community service volunteer in the Southeast Asian nation.
Joy, 21, will join 247 other Bay State residents presently serving in the Peace Corps, according to a press release from the organization’s Northeast Regional Office. She signed up for the program a year ago and went through a rigorous application process. Two weeks ago, she graduated a semester early from Loyola University in Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
To serve, Joy has given up walking in her college graduation ceremony and set aside job offers to become a teacher, she said. She plans to work in a primary school in a suburb of Bangkok, Thailand’s capital. Her first three months will be spent living with a host family and immersing herself in Thai language and culture. She will then be sworn in and spend two years teaching English, working with local people and creating a community service project.
Joy is the oldest child of Tom and Karen Joy of Danvers. Her younger sister, Jennifer, is a junior at Loyola, and her younger brother, Matthew, attends St. John’s Prep.
The 2009 graduate and honors student at Danvers High “was always doing something,” said Joy’s mother, who described her daughter as someone with a “good heart,” a well of enthusiasm, a desire to make a difference and a willingness to be active since grade school. She was the type of student at Danvers High who joined the math team not because she was a standout, but because she wanted to be on the team, Karen said.