LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- Leola Conley, a social worker, turned teacher and then advocate for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has impacted the lives of many in Acadiana.

She’s one of four local women chosen as a finalist in the Nexstar nationwide Remarkable Women Campaign.

Conley was nominated as a remarkable woman who has changed lives one student, one person, one family at a time and she’s still at it.

She’s in her second career working with students who face difficult challenges in and out of the classroom.

Conley is on a mission to remain involved with area youth.

But before she entered the classroom, Conely herself faced challenges growing up in a low income family.

She was an excellent student who pursued and obtained a college degree from the then, U-S-L, now UL.

She went on to work for the state, helping families struggling like her family once did. Conley says, “I started as a welfare worker and did that for three years. Then I decided it was time to move on, so I was a child support worker, did that for seven years.”

It was in that career this mother of two had a revelation.

“I saw there was a need for these kids to have somebody who could motivate them and be positive and push them and let them know they matter.”

The social worker turned advocate for students with disabilities, found herself at 60 years old, returning to school to do just that, by pursuing a second degree, this time in counseling.

“I thought about my social services days and said, you know what? It might be time to go back to college and get my graduate degree as a licensed professional counselor so that’s what I’m doing.”

But her dedication does not stop there.

Her own two children are high school graduates.

Her son is a college grad and her daughter is currently a college student who is living with sickle cell anemia.

She was diagnosed as a child and Conley has been her advocate ever since working closely with doctors, teachers and administrators to make sure her daughter succeeds.

She says, “When your child has something, you want the best for them.”

Those who know Conley and her dedication say she’s one of the strongest advocates for children they know.

The proof can be seen in the many lives she has impacted and those she says, she has yet to meet.

“My eyes are on the children. We have to show them that we will do whatever we can to help them succeed,” she said. “We have to believe in them. It’s all of our job. I think if we can stop and help a child, anybody, we should because that’s what makes us good human beings and that’s something I want to be.”

Well apparently that’s exactly what you are Ms. Conley and congratulations on being one of our remarkable women nominees.

Conley joins three other women chosen from Acadiana in the “Remarkable Women Campaign.”

The nationwide Nexstar initiative honors influential women impacting public policy, social progress and the quality of life.

Profiles of the top four nominees are airing on local newscasts every Tuesday thru March 3rd and are being featured on our website.

On March 6, 2020, one local woman will be announced our “Remarkable Woman” and she will be considered for “Nexstar Woman of The Year.”

Our area’s “Remarkable Woman” will travel to New York City to attend a special reception where television talk show host Mel Robbins will be the featured speaker.

The winner will also attend “The Mel Robbins Show” taping on Wednesday, March 18th, when Ms. Robbins will exclusively announce the “Nexstar Woman of The Year.”

The show announcing the winner will air during the week of March 23, 2020.