Rick Kelly has been a technology specialist with Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia for 30 years, but he never experienced a connection with school leadership like he did in September.
That is when Superintendent Michelle Reid accepted an invitation from Kelly to attend a powwow hosted by the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia, of which Kelly is a member.
The event was held in Surry, Virginia, which was about a three-hour trip for Reid.
“We share our culture during our powwow,” said Kelly. “It’s a gathering of Native American people and it’s a celebration.”
Kelly said he introduced Reid to the group as an “honored guest.”
“She participated by coming into the dance circle and actually dancing,” Kelly explained. “To have the leader of the largest school system in this area take the time to come down was a personal honor.”
It’s something Kelly has highlighted over the past month, which is recognized as National Native American Heritage Month.
According to a statement from the White House, “During National Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate indigenous peoples past and present and rededicate ourselves to honoring tribal sovereignty, promoting tribal self-determination and upholding the United States’ solemn trust and treaty responsibilities to tribal nations.”
“I took my challenge to explore Virginia to a new level,” Reid wrote in a school system blog. “What a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Nottoway’s rich history in the Commonwealth.”
Kelly said that he previously worked for a large technology company, but his Native American roots attracted him to education.
“Native Americans are an active part of today’s culture and the values that we share are important and applicable to all Americans,” Kelly said. “Values are taught in the family, and both my mother and father taught me the importance of education as it was taught to them.”
Kelly said that working in education “had some meaning beyond earning a living.”