Poly Prep student Kayla Williams has accomplished an impressive amount for someone who just turned 17. Set to graduate in 2018, the Canarsie resident has focused on educating youth who are less fortunate since she was a freshman.
Can you talk about your community service and how you got into it?
I went to Panama for a service trip and we were working to help fix the schools and teach English to the kids in the area in freshman year. From that moment, I knew I wanted to do something related to kids and I wanted to do service back in Brooklyn. When I got back, my friend and I got the idea to start a student-run organization that helps mentor kids in academics, athletics and arts.
A bunch of us meet every weekend and over the summer every day and work with kids to just give them things that we weren’t able to experience when we were in public school.
How does giving back make you feel?
It’s really fun. I never really think of it as work. Going in and studying with the kids and other mentors, it’s just always an amazing time. It feels more rewarding than going to a regular 9-5 job and getting money. It’s also helping mold me for my future. I’m learning skills that I can’t learn in textbooks — to speak to other people, to reach out to organizations and lead other people. It’s a great way to spend my time.
What inspires you to do it?
I’m not as well off as the kids I go to school with so I feel like I just want to do something for people like me. That first summer, one of the mothers came up to us and thanked us for everything we’ve done. She saw a huge transformation in her son and he was happier in general. There have been times where it’s been a lot of work. I might have considered giving up but when there are kids and parents like that, who appreciate what you do, that motivates me every day.