Tag Archives: Wesleyan University

One-arm Benjamin Cardozo High School cheerleader hopes to continue dancing in college


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

In every aspect Benjamin Cardozo High School senior Kayla Garcia is an average teenage girl.

She goes to parties with her friends, complains about the length of the SAT, and is still contemplating which college to attend next year.

But Kayla, 17, was born without her right forearm.

“When I first had her I was worried, is she going to ride a bike?” said Cindy, Kayla’s mother. “But then I was like, it’s stupid to worry about stuff like that. She’s healthy, there is nothing mentally wrong with her, those are the kind of challenges that are probably harder to overcome.”

Kayla, who is a member of Cardozo’s step team and cheerleading squad, is just fine with her body and is hoping to continue dancing in college.

She wants to major in psychology, while participating on the cheerleading and stepping teams at the next level. Kayla is considering a wide range of schools, including Dickinson College, Hofstra University, Wesleyan University or Ithaca College, among others.

“I’m excited for that, I’m not nervous for college,” Kayla said. “I’m just wondering where I am going to go.”

Her right arm is stunted to about her elbow, but the Flushing teen uses the ligament naturally, such as to brush aside her long, wild hair when strands creep in front of her face.

During her years in Cardozo she has done various extracurricular activities, including volunteering at local organizations and events, such as the Dribble for a Cure cancer fundraiser at St. John’s University with the cheerleading team. She is also part of Cardozo’s Leadership Class, the student government group that oversees all club activities, parties and numerous events for the more than 4,000 students enrolled in the school.

Kayla performs with the step club during the school’s popular basketball games, and the cheerleading squad at the football games.

She shines with confidence, despite the missing limb, because Kayla has been attending support groups since she was about three years old with her mother to meet with parents and other children in similar situations.

Cindy heard some advice that stuck with her from the groups, which influenced the way she raised Kayla. “Your kid is normal, how people perceive her that’s their problem. Raise her like you would any other kid and she’ll be fine,” Cindy recalled.

And she followed through. When Kayla was about eight years old, Cindy pushed her into salsa dance classes.

Kayla developed a love for dancing, which years later she used to be accepted into Cardozo, after auditioning her talents for the school’s performing dance program.

Looking towards the future Kayla doesn’t think she will cheer or do dancing for a career. She also doesn’t want a right forearm.

Since she never had one, she doesn’t even miss it.

“I’m so used to doing everything with one. Doing it with two would throw me off,” Garcia said. “I am just used to being this way I wouldn’t want [a prosthetic arm].”

 

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Hollis teen earns his wings as Eagle Scout


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo by Carrie Johnson

It took seven years and an endless amount of determination, but Keyonne Zaire Session is now an Eagle Scout.

The 18-year-old from Hollis earned the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America and was recognized in a National Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony on August 17 in Glen Cove, Long Island.

“It’s probably one of the most prestigious awards I’ve ever received in my life,” he said. “I feel like I’m added into a selective group of individuals.”

To gain the coveted title, a scout must earn 21 merit badges as well as organize, lead and complete an extensive service project.

Session — a member of the St. Alban the Martyr Episcopal Church, Troop 267 — created a memorial garden to honor Brian James Hom, a classmate and friend, who died two years ago in a car crash.

The garden is meant for anybody who has lost a loved one to come and reflect, he said.

Session was also the first recipient of the Brian James Hom Scholarship Award, which honors students who lives by Brian’s motto of “I am the me I choose to be.”

“I do it because I love the feeling that other people get when they realize other people are helping them. That feeling, the happiness they experience, it gives me such a fulfillment in my life,” said Session, the troop’s fifth Eagle Scout.

His mother, Nicolle, said she admires her son’s proactive nature and passion for equality.

“I’m very proud of what he’s done,” she said. “He’s always sticking up for the right thing. When you hear these different things from people, it makes you say as a mother, ‘I’ve done my job. I’ve done the job I set out to do.’”

Session graduated this year from Friends Academy, where he played on the varsity football team, performed in his school’s winter plays and served as treasurer for the Diversity Club.

He will be attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut this fall and studying psychology.

He said he hopes other youngsters will choose to become a Boy Scout.

“It’s extremely worth it,” Session said. “It’s taught me life lessons, like how to be a good person and role model, and the people I’ve met have been phenomenal.”

 

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