Hazlehurst native Kelly Graeber says being the daughter of a high school art teacher and educator helped her grasp the gift of learning at an early age.
As the public relations specialist of the Oxford School District, Graeber’s days are packed with handling weekly communication operations within a growing student population spread across seven schools including a new high school.
“My work style is a little mixture of cheerleader and team player meets middle linebacker and endurance athlete,” Graeber says. “I see public education using communications professionals more to help coordinate information about what is going on in public education and continue to tell the story of school districts in which they work.”
Graeber graduated with honors from Mississippi College and was a student producer and reporter at WAPT-16 in Jackson. Her previous work experience includes being the first director of Volunteer Oxford, public relations manager of the Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau, development coordinator for the Mississippi Children’s Home and special projects officer for the Mississippi State Department of Health.
“I truly believe that some people have the wrong idea about public relations professionals,” Graeber says. “We are not just ‘spin doctors.’ Storytelling is actually a very honest description of what we do. It’s not just the good stories that we tell, but we have to tell the realistic side of issues that might cause conflict or stir undesirable emotions.”
Graeber advises young professionals to be resourceful, don’t burn bridges, don’t let others do the work for you and dress professionally.
“You don’t have to spend hundreds on a wardrobe,” she says. “Make sure you are groomed from your hair down to your toe nails. Make your first impression the best one.”
Graeber enjoys volunteering, painting, working out, teaching aerobics and spending time with her husband Kenny.
Communications Coordinator, Oxford School District
Heroes or mentors: “Grandmother Eloise. She’s the epitome of the Southern belle: charming, kind, beautiful, respectful, yet firm in her beliefs and morals.”
Best thing about Mississippi: “The rich history, culture, literature, arts and music.”
Best Mississippi event: The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race in Natchez
Favorite Mississippi food: Homegrown tomatoes with garlic salt
Childhood dream job: TV reporter or airline attendant
First job ever: Lifeguard and dance teacher
Favorite movie: “Grease”
Favorite music: Kudzu Kings
Twitter handle: @kel_e_shannon
Favorite hangout spots: The Square in Oxford and the rooftop of the King Edward Hotel in Jackson
Favorite TV show: “The Walking Dead