“I have reached my own happy standard.”
Kayla initially joined My Life to satisfy a need to belong. As a freshman without many friends, she felt her peers had arrived at school already enmeshed in (or joined) highly exclusive cliques. Kayla felt out of place and uncomfortable. My Life had a major impact on Kayla’s high school experience, providing a sense of community and helping her to navigate the uncertainties of the journey toward young adulthood.
It was my first experience with an organization where I felt included, where I felt like I was part of something.
The My Life structure also provided Kayla with an important adult relationship. Tara, her club’s adult facilitator became a necessary mid-point between Kayla’s family and her friends. With Tara’s guidance, Kayla was able to explore and practice making autonomous decisions without forfeiting the safety net of high school and the club. For Kayla, Tara’s role was neither peer nor parent. She confided in Tara when she was scared or unsure, and also considered her an adult friend.
Over time Kayla became comfortable assuming greater responsibilities in the group and began using the skills she learned in her club to help her family and friends address issues they faced at home.
Junior year I realized what a huge impact My Life had had on me…. I learned about prevention… how to prevent bad things from happening to me [and those around me.] I learned how to keep things from escalating. How to keep myself and my sisters safe. It all comes back to my sisters. I wanted to learn to help other people and I did. I was able to intervene when a friend was the victim of emotional violence. I helped her locate help. And this made me feel like I made a difference.
By junior year, Kayla was president of the club. She remained club president throughout her senior year of high school.
When we speak with Kayla during and at the end of her freshman year of college Kayla’s life looks different than she’d anticipated. Instead of attending a University of California school — which she felt the club and GHGH promoted and expected — she decided to stay closer to home and attend Hartnell. Kayla feels a deep obligation to her family and is committed to caring for her father, who is disabled, and her younger sister. In this way she feels she is charting her own path — balancing the stress of school with her responsibilities at home and to her family — and finally making decisions for herself.
At the end of high school I was really disappointed with myself that I would be going to a community college. I’d been in GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) since sixth grade. Going from GATE to honors to AP, they’re always telling you pick a UC.…It was a lot of pressure…. I feel like I didn’t reach my expectations from high school but I have reached my own happy standard.