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Making a Difference: Karen Kelly

What are your priorities?

When you talk to Karen Kelly about priorities, one of the first things you’ll hear is “education.”

Encouraged by a mentor at one of her earliest jobs, she returned to college as a non-traditional student and earned a bachelor’s degree, fulfilling a promise she’d made to her dad at 16.

“Education comes first in our family,” said Kelly, the district director for U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers.

“That’s what my husband, John, and I believe, and that’s what we want to encourage for our college-age daughters as well as our 5-year-old son, Blake. We believe that education is something worth putting your time, energy, and resources into as a family, and we make it a priority.”

Today, their daughters, Destini and Anna, are set to graduate from the University of Kentucky and Tufts University, respectively — one already making plans for graduate school. Blake is an eager kindergarten student and an avid viewer of the educational programs provided by KET though PBS Kids.

“We’ve always been very guarded about his time with television and the iPad — and PBS Kids is the primary choice for us to allow Blake to watch,” she said.

The Kellys aren’t alone: 88 percent of parents recently surveyed said that PBS Kids is a trusted and safe place to watch television and visit digital platforms.

Blake, a curious and personable child who’s conversant on both Venus Flytrap and aloe plants, is thrilled to use the one app Kelly has for him on her phone — again, PBS Kids.

“It has the only games we allow him to play and is the only app on my phone for him to watch shows,” she noted.

“And I really like the games!” Blake chimed in.

He’s just one of 11 million who visit pbskids.org, a leading innovator in educational media. In fact, 80 percent of those surveyed said PBS Kids is the undisputed leader in children’s programming.

Karen Kelly

Initially, what propelled the Kellys toward public television for Blake was observing how he behaved after watching other TV offerings.

“John and I noticed a while back that there were certain shows that immediately changed his behavior, and it wasn’t positive,” she said.

“Not that they used bad language, but it wasn’t positive programming. We made the determination that if we’re serious about education, then Blake should be exposed to the things that positively affect his behavior and learning.”

In addition to the safe options it offers, PBS Kids also addresses essential skills, like STEM, literacy, and social and emotional development. One of Blake’s favorites is Ready Jet Go!, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math.

“He loves the shows that involve math,” said Kelly. He loves Wild Kratts and he’ll talk to you about conservation. He loves Ready Jet Go! — he’s fascinated with space and can name the planets, in order. It’s fun but it’s educational, and we’ve seen positive outcomes.”

Kelly’s projections are spot-on. Studies show that children who engage with PBS Kids math content see great improvement on standardized math assessments. According to a recent poll, a full 92 percent of those surveyed agreed that PBS Kids helped their children learn reading, math, and social skills.

“Like a lot of parents, we believe Blake is very gifted with language and memory skills. He doesn’t forget things, so when he’s exposed to something, it has a real impact on him,” she added.

“We really feel PBS Kids and KET are worth our time and investment into Blake’s education.”