For the modest 13-year-old, talking about her past and the obstacles she has already had to overcome in her young life is not easy, but seventh-grader Kayla Meabroad is slowly getting used to the attention.
Kayla received two awards this year, an Optimist Club Youth Appreciation award and the Hartland Hero award, both which recognize her achievements and positive attitude.
The Hartland Hero award, which only nine other students will receive this year out of the 900-plus student body, according to Hartland Middle School principal Steve Livingway, is for students who have overcome obstacles in their life, which can be physical, medical or family crisis, while still being successful in school.
“That’s why we call it the Hartland Hero and they actually get a medal,” Livingway said. “There’s a ceremony and it’s actually pretty special to us.”
Students are nominated by teachers but Livingway says the reasons for the nominations are kept private to protect the privacy of the student and families.
Kayla and her family, however, are very open about their family lives and Kayla's aunt, Cari Sinke says she is extremely proud of the young woman her niece has become.
When Kayla was five, Sinke got a call from her young niece after a rough night at home with her biological parents. Sinke told her husband that night as she was leaving, that was going to bring Kayla "home" and eight years later, she is a happy, well-adjusted teenager. Kayla continues to live with her aunt and uncle and two young cousins who she considers to be her sisters.
“She’s taken the negative in her life and turned it around in a very positive way,” Sinke said.
Although being honored in front of her friends and peers is “awkward,” according to Kayla, her good-natured attitude makes her smile as her aunt proudly gushes about the niece who she has raised for the last eight years.
“Kayla has the biggest heart,” Sinke said. “She goes out of her way to make everyone in the room feel comfortable. That’s her biggest achievement-- she doesn’t realize-- and everyone compliments her on that.”
Laughing, Kayla shrugs and admits, "I like to give everyone hugs."
With her freckled face and pulled back hair, Kayla looks like any other young teenager, but Sinke is quick to point out that her niece has a calming attitude that is much older compared to other girls her age.
Kayla’s maturity stems from her early years living with her mother and father, both drug addicts, and the hard experiences she went through at such a young age.
An honor roll student, math tutor in school and active in volunteering, Livingway says that Kayla’s positive attitude is the biggest reason why the seventh grader was nominated for the prestigious award.
“She works hard, positive, honor roll student who gives back,” he said.
Kayla says she feel that her past home life and the current relationship with her mother, who she still sees on a regular basis, is what shaped her.
“I think it’s made me stronger and more level headed,” Kayla said.
It has also shaped her future goals as well, with Kayla aspiring to be a child psychologist.
For now, however, Kayla is a supportive mentor to her friends, according to her aunt, who tries to be a wise shoulder to lean on as they go through their own struggles. Kayla says she listens and gives advice when she can. A hero in her own way to many around her, according to Sinke.
But mainly, she is there as a friend, a young girl herself, who knows how harsh life can be but also knows there are heroes out there, like her aunt, who are willing to help any way they can.
2012 Hartland Hero Recipient Award Winners:
- Chris Page
- Kyle Van Houten
- Hannah Shanebrook
- Alyssa Zremski
- Ana Scheider
- Megan Loeffler
- Valerie Duncan
- Jessica Kalvaitis
- Nicole Brcic
- Kalya Meabroad
- Jennifer Bauer
- Morgan Talmage