A rainbow of sayings frame Kayla Quick’s mirror beside her bed.
She sees them every day, and every day, she’s reminded of what she wants to do and who she wants to be.
Start a nonprofit today. Check.
Trust in God to help you do your best and trust him to do the rest. Yes.
The best project you’ll ever work on is YOU. No doubt.
Quick, a senior nonprofit leadership and management major from High Point, has been selected as one of two Extraordinary Leaders for the month of January.
She will graduate in May and leave High Point University better than she found it. She helped create HPU’s Black Student Union, and during a time of transition in HPU’s acclaimed servant leader program, she led the 40 students known as Bonner Leaders who commit to four years of community service.
Meanwhile, she is helping build confidence in third-graders at a local elementary school through the books they read. The titles include “Hey, Black Child,” “I Am Enough,” and “I, Too, Am America.”
There was a time children made Quick anxious. But not anymore. Why?
High Point University.
Every year, HPU pairs up with Say Yes, a nonprofit in HPU’s home county, and awards five highly competitive full scholarships. Two of those scholarships are for first-generation college students, and HPU provides the funds to cover tuition, books and fees for the five scholarship recipients.
In 2016, Quick was one of the five. She came to HPU as a Say Yes First-Generation student.
Quick’s dad is a barber; her mom, a certified nursing assistant. Quick — the oldest of eight, the honor student and varsity cheerleader from Southwest Guilford High — became the first member of her immediate family to go to college.
When Quick came to HPU, she was ecstatic. College, she saw, was a path to success. When she arrived, she knew she had to create what she calls “my own lane” to feel totally comfortable in this new place less than 10 minutes from her home.
Her love for reading helped her do that.
In her sophomore year, she and her good friend, Danasia Eubanks, started a book club for black students interested in reading African-American literature. From that club sprang the Black Student Union.
By her junior year, with the help of the Student Government Association, the Black Student Union became a chartered organization known around campus as BSU. The group holds at least 10 events a year to bring people of color together.
Quick created her own lane. She found friends through her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. And she discovered her own voice.
“I grew as a leader,” she says today. “I’m not the voice of black people on campus, but having an organization behind me, I learned how to navigate the campus, and when someone wanted something done, they came to me to help them figure it out.
“I’m not a social person, but I knew I had to be me. I had to speak up for myself.”
On Quick’s vision board above the door in her door room is this phrase: Speak TRUTH even if your voice shakes.
As a Say Yes First-Generation Scholar, Quick became a Bonner Leader. That program, part of HPU’s experiential learning component, gives students from working-class families the chance to earn money through the Federal Work-Study Program and serve 300 hours a year at a local nonprofit.
Quick served at West End Ministries, a nonprofit that provided food, support and financial assistance to families in need. For three years, Quick worked in the nonprofit’s food pantry, and this year, she started tutoring elementary school students.
In doing so, she learned the importance of service — and how simple it can be.
Ask her about that, and she mentions the father in his 40s. He came in once a month and left with a cardboard tray containing at least a dozen 10-ounce cans of corn. That was it.
“Why do you get all that corn?” Quick asked him one day.
“My daughters like it,” he told her, “and I do, too.”
“Sometimes, we make things more complicated than it really is,” Quick says. “That corn made him happy. It’s a simple thing, but it made me feel better with what I’m doing. People are human. There is no need to treat them any differently because of their situation.”
As Quick’s work with BSU grew so did her work with the Bonner Leader program. She became Bonner’s program and logistical intern, the program’s de facto student president. She planned meetings, kept up with everyone’s work hours and became the community’s contact.
Last spring, as the university searched for a new coordinator, Quick ran the program for a month.
“This is why I went into the ministry in the first place,” says the Rev. Mary Beth Foust, Bonner’s new coordinator and HPU’s assistant director of civic responsibility and social innovation.
“These students, they have so much to learn about the community and poverty and race, and they have so much to learn about themselves,” she says. “I tell them, ‘OK, you won’t be at the same person when you leave, but I’ll help you figure it out.”
”She has always been confident,” Foust says. “She came in with that. But now, she has such a sense of presence about her. It’s like she’s saying, ‘I’m not going to let anything stop me from whatever I want to do.’ I can’t wait to see what happens with her. It’ll be fun.”
Quick has made her presence known at HPU.
She received the Nido R. Qubein School of Communication Persuasive Speaker Citation Award when she wrote a speech advocating for West End Ministries.
She also received the Enhancing Multicultural Life at High Point University Award for her work with BSU.
Combine those two awards with her recent recognition from the BB&T Leadership Institute – she received the BB&T Emerging Leaders Certification – and Quick has become one to watch at HPU.
And to think, when she came to the university four years ago, she had no idea what a nonprofit was.
Quick will graduate in May with two minors – one in African-American studies, the other in civic responsibility and social innovation. And like her vision board says, Quick wants to start a nonprofit.
She wants her nonprofit to help improve the well-being of people who look like her. She wants to focus on racial equity and food scarcity, on homelessness and educational opportunities, and create a lane of achievement, just like what Say Yes and HPU did for her.
But she has to graduate first.
“Part of me is terrified to graduate, but the other part of me is ready,” she says. “HPU has given me the experience I need to know what I can do. I know I’m equipped.”
Quick is applying for various fellowships, and she’s looking into becoming an HPU VISTA and spend at least a year working with her alma mater to help improve her hometown.
But right now, she’s working with third-graders at High Point’s Northwood Elementary who have given her a raft of welcome letters. One student named Ta’moras printed in pencil: “I think you will be the best techer (sic) ever. I can’t wait to meet you.”
Her work with third-graders is part of her senior capstone project. She’ll stay through April and spend an hour twice a week using books to teach children of color they matter.
When she first came to HPU, she never thought she’d work with children. HPU changed that. She became more compassionate, more understanding and more driven to fight the systemic racism and inequalities she sees in the world.
But she’s also learned to slow down. Last year, she had the phrase “Forgive Yourself” tattooed on her underside of her right wrist. She’s right handed, and she sees her tattoo every time she writes.
Her tattoo is a reminder to the phrase on her vision board above the door. It’s simply three words: Let it go.
Then there is the advice from Foust, her mentor, her friend.
“Give yourself some grace,” Foust tells her. “But keep at it.”
Quick has come to understand that.