Celebrating Community College Month and Highlighting the Unconventional Success Story of a NOVA Graduate

April 3, 2023

If you've ever wondered what’s possible for a NOVA student, prepare to hear the inspirational story of Kellie Blair Hardt. This successful NOVA graduate earned her bachelor's at Virginia Tech and master's at George Mason and is refocusing her doctoral efforts to study adult education.  

Kellie Hardt

Some years ago, Kellie found herself in the limelight as a national success story, after turning her life around in a major way. Kellie's childhood was wrought with homelessness, separation from her mother at two, an alcoholic father, and getting thrown out of school.

On March 22 at the Colgan Theater, Kellie returned to the Manassas Campus, where she shared with her audience the rawness of her story. This March DEI event saw unforgettably emotional reunions and extraordinary, touching moments. 

The Manassas Campus was Kellie's campus as a NOVA student. This was where she received more than a degree. This was where she found her community. It was a community that taught her that she was special and loved, no matter what. Kellie never had that before, and she started believing them!

Kellie became an award-winning teacher. Helping students is the blood that flows through her veins. It is everything to her! 

As Kellie will tell you, success is not a straight line; far from it. In addition to being a highly sought-after inspirational speaker, she was a wife and a mother, teaching full-time and tutoring students.

Then she slammed straight into a wall. Kellie was facing a full-on mental health crisis. Even with all the support she received from those who helped her attain greatness, she could no longer keep going. However, it just tore her apart, as she thought she was letting them all down. So, she simply vanished and hid.

Kellie isn't shy about discussing her breakdown and her all-important path back to mental wellness. She's become a mental health advocate of sorts. Even so, she struggled with returning to NOVA to be a speaker and talk about her success story, especially after her breakdown. She wanted to decline the invitation.    

As it turns out, returning was the best medicine, since her friends and mentors told her they would be there just like they always had been. Of course, they were in the audience, up in the front, once again supporting and loving their Kellie.

Watch the Full Video, DEI Spotlight Event of Kellie Blair Hardt:


Kellie Blair Hardt’s story—from being a dropout to getting her GED and turning her life around—made its national debut on PBS in October 2015. Kellie appeared on KET, on the Kentucky Network’s series “Dropping Back In: Second Chances.” Kellie and her story have inspired millions nationwide.    

Watch Kellie Blair Hardt’s PBS Video Here: https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ket-dbi-3/kellie-blair-hardt/

Topics: featured article, diversity and inclusion, student success