And although each student has had a different journey to reach that stage, few if any have had more challenges and obstacles to overcome than Kayla Kinker of Covington, Ky.
“It was my dream to come to school here but I never thought it was possible,” Kinker said.
The summer before her senior year in high school is when Kayla had to make some tough decisions that would set the course for her future. “Life was pretty rough,” she said. “The apartments we were living in weren’t stable and we would go without basic utilities.”
At times not knowing where or when she would get her next meal, she said it was during this difficult time that she made an important decision. “I had to decide if I was going to withdraw from school to work full time to help my family or find a way to keep going and pursue my education,” she said.
In the end she knew she could do more for her family and her community by staying in school and trying to get to college. She also found a more stable environment when she moved to the Welcome House, a homeless shelter for women and children in Northern Kentucky, where she lived while completing her senior year in high school.
After graduating from high school with honors and going on to finish her degree at Berea College, Kinker is now ready to embark on her next goal: to become a physician and help others who find themselves in situations not unlike her own.
“I’ve always felt like a lot of people had to work very hard to get me here, so now that I have this (white) coat I feel like I’m really on my way to paying that back and I’ll finally be in a position where I can help others.”
Kinker’s goal is to eventually open a community health center to help others.
“Wherever you are in life, whether you are struggling or in an unhealthy situation, use that to motivate you and fuel you to do something great,” she said. “You can do whatever you set your mind to if you just don’t give up.”