Turning the Tassel – The Next Chapter for a Youth Haven Alum

Author: Dara Yah’Ya, YDW Program Manager

Youth Haven Camps & Retreats has walked with Kia for exactly half of her life—from preteen conversations about the growing pains of adolescence to watching her pass the driving exam, and now the proudest moment of all, her college graduation!

The spunky 11 year old first attended Youth Haven Kids Camp in the summer of 2008.  She was full of energy, talkative, and very creative — fiercely intelligent, a little bossy, and extremely compassionate.  She enjoyed the summer camps immensely.  Year after year she enjoyed helping the younger kids at the camp. Kia especially liked motivating the campers who needed the most attention.  So it was an easy decision to have her back as a Leader-in-Training when she asked, first as a cabin counselor and then as the Arts & Craft Coordinator organizing the craft activities for the entire camp.


Kia understood the value of camp and she wanted to be a part of creating this unique experience for others. Camp was the place where practicing social, leadership, and conflict/resolution skills was disguised as games and planning for your future was fun. But what made this camp special to Kia was the safe space that it provided to talk about her fears and emotions.  It was a place where she could talk and learn about HIV.  She could admit that she was afraid of what HIV could do to the ones she loved the most. Here she could admit that she was afraid of losing them.  As Kia went off to college, she stayed committed to providing this safe space via art at Kids Camp. She connected with these young campers, understanding what it was like to have loved ones who were living with HIV, knowing their worry, and confident that she could reassure them that everything would be alright.

Surrounded by the cheers of her loved ones on May 22nd, 22 year-old Kia graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Art Education, Bachelors of Science in Art+Design, and a minor in Health Science. She has been hired as an art teacher for Prince George’s County Public Schools and is awaiting her placement for the 2019-2020 academic year. Within the next five years, Kia hopes to earn a Master’s degree in clinical psychology to pursue her other dream of becoming an HIV Counselor. She would like to thank everyone who has supported and continues to support her education and career goals. “This is for everyone who has made an impact on my journey.”

Congratulations Kia.  Way to reach for it!

To support Youth Development and Wellness activities for more youth in our community, please visit our website to donate.


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