The Kaya Program

Being a part of the Kaya program has given me plenty of opportunities that open up doors for success. In the summer of 2013, I got a chance to work for the Kaya program through FirstJobs. I walked into my interview knowing very little about the program, but once I got hired, I realized that the program had so much to offer.

Kaya is built off of kids who are driven to do better, willing to volunteer, and kids who want to give back. Each week during July-August 2013, youth would meet and plan their annual peace performance showcase, Lynn Out Loud. Seeing how kids my age could work together to come up with such a successful show made me want to be able to do the same.

After my summer work cycle, I decided to stick with the program and become a Kaya member myself. I had a busy schedule during the school year, so I came whenever I could. The days that I would come, I would be welcomed with open arms. Each week there would be a lesson ready, and we’d always be doing different activities from Healthy Snacks vs. Junk Food or “What is Respect?” I found myself being involved in different events that I wouldn’t be doing on my own if it wasn’t for Kaya. Along with the chance to volunteer at the Lynn Y, such as at the Christmas Tree Lighting and Sunday Easter Breakfast, we also got to host and plan our own such as the LOL Open Mics and Valentine’s Day Dance.

After being an active member and volunteer, I got an opportunity to work again as a Kaya Youth Staff. While working during this cycle, I got a chance to really connect with the kids, especially the girls. Kaya is more male populated, which gives the girls a sense of being overpowered. The girls felt comfortable opening up to me, and I started to realize that I had a pretty big influence on them. They look up to me, which gives me the motive to do better myself. I participated and took on the job not knowing that I’d be such an impact on the kids. It gave me an opportunity to better myself and become a role model. Additionally, I got to do things for the community with Kaya, such as hosting basketball and volleyball tournaments to promote healthy living, World AIDS Day, the 84h Movement to fight against tobacco, the Khmer New Year Community Fair, and the Kaya Youth Recognition Ceremony.

It was such an honor when I was awarded this May3rd-the Emerging Youth Leader Award by KCPC (Khmer Cultural Planning Committee) and was the recipient of the Kaya Leader’s Award on June 26th, 2014. Kaya is a motivating program that teaches you leadership skills, team building skills, the importance of volunteerism and gives you an opportunity to be more involved in the community. I am looking forward to hosting our first ever Masstyles “No Junk, Feel Da’ Funk,” a dance jam “to promote healthy living and to inspire youth to come together to express themselves through various styles of dance” . I am proud and honored to be able to carry out Kaya’s mission to “SPARK THE POWER OF YOUTH TO GENERATE POSITIVE CHANGE.” I’ve accomplished a lot through this program, and accomplishment is one of the stepping stones to success.

–Molly Nhiv, 16, Lynn English High School