Sparkman High School
“She had purple hair and no arms. She was surrounded by friends as they talked and laughed with each other walking through the halls. She did not know me from anyone else at the new school, but still returned my smile in the hallway.” So began Sparkman High School teacher Renée Quaife’s nomination of senior Kya Evangeline Qvale as a Young Hero.
Kya was born with arms that were not fully developed. She has never allowed this condition to limit her activities. Ms. Quaife told of a co-worker asking her what Kya’s level of activity was and what sort of accommodations needed to be made. Ms. Quaife smiled and said, “None.” Kya carries a laptop. She types her assignments and emails them to her teachers. She drives, she served as an assistant stage manager in the school’s drama department, she works on the staff of Sparkman’s literary magazine Silhouette, and she served as the Project Manager of Research for Spark Industry Robotics, a student-led simulated workforce. In addition to her school activities, Kya was on the planning committee and served as a volunteer for the Sparkman Arts Festival in 2015 and 2016. She is also a regular volunteer at House of the Harvest, a local food line/pantry.These achievements alone would qualify Kya as a Young Hero, but they are only the beginning of the hardships she has faced and overcome. When Kya was in middle school, her mother was wrestling with demons of drug and alcohol abuse. A child herself, Kya often found herself responsible for the care of her two little brothers when her mother was unable to do so.
Eventually, Kya’s family moved to Alabama to get a clean start. Both parents were working long hours, so Kya was again left to care for her brothers (now 13 and 10.) She cooked their dinners, helped them with homework and put them to bed—as her parents worked as late as 3:00 a.m.
Through the processes and changes involved in moving 800 miles away, Kya’s grandmother - Nana - assisted her family both financially and emotionally. In the fall of 2016, the family was devastated when Nana died from cancer. The loss impacted Kya greatly.
Ms. Quaife concluded her nomination letter: “In class, someone asked Kya what is one thing she would change in the world. Her reply—she wished people would stop being so negative. She calls herself a “forever optimist” and wishes that people would stop looking at the negative and focus on the positive. That is why Kya is my hero. Even though she is young, she is wise and insightful and working to improve the world around her.”
We need more positive people in this world. For her courage and tenacity in the face of extraordinary hardships. Kya is recognized by her school and our state as one of the 2017 Young Heroes of Alabama.
The Young Heroes Program is made possible through the support of: