Who am I? Where do I fit in? How will I leave my mark on the world?
Many of us search our whole lives trying to find answers to these questions. Kimberly Heard took this charge head on when she was just a teen.
Growing up, Kimberly felt pulled in different directions. She remembers voices from her past that made her question who she was and what she was worth.
“Why you talkin’ like you ain’t from Brooklyn?”
“You speak so well…but don’t you feel like you’re ditching your roots?”
“You would look so much nicer if your hair was pressed out.”
The internal war that raged inside took its toll. The once bubbly, vivacious teen, described by many as a bright light, began to fade. Kimberly felt stuck in a world where she didn’t belong. She remembers, “I buried myself underneath my layers of hated dark skin and kinky roots.”
Kimberly lost hope, but little did she know, her life would soon change.
In ninth grade, Kimberly’s mother enrolled her in the A.R. Gus Barksdale Boys & Girls Club. Kimberly wasn’t too thrilled about her new after-school hangout, but she made the best of it.
Her first afternoon at the Club, a Club staff member, Ms. Ayava, noticed Kimberly sitting alone in a corner with her notebook and asked a simple question: “Do you like writing?” She did.
By the end of the evening, Kimberly had written and submitted two poems for an anthology of poems and artwork from some of the best and brightest artists from Boys & Girls Club members across metro Atlanta.
Before coming to the Club, Kimberly’s internal struggle caused anxiety in social situations, and a fear of engaging with others. But she says participating in arts programs helped her connect with her feelings and come out of her shell. Kimberly eventually found the courage to present her poems on stage, a defining moment that would forever change her life.
“Standing on stage watching people who genuinely wanted to hear what I had to say was the freest I had been in a long time,” Kimberly said.
Over the years, Kimberly broadened her horizons through programs like CareerBound, a career readiness program, and Money Matters, which teaches kids the principles of saving money. Through Global Girls, a female empowerment initiative, Kimberly found an extended family to support her.
She says the Keystone service and leadership program taught her the value of giving back and making good choices.
Today, Kimberly has found the leader within. At just 16 years old, Kimberly recently received Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta’s most prestigious award – 2019/2020 Youth of the Year.
Kimberly, a graduating senior, has big dreams after high school. She plans to attend college and study aerospace engineering.
As she continues her path, Kimberly hopes to use her journey to inspire other kids and teens to overcome the obstacles they face. She plans to advocate for kids who are under-represented, and improve the standard of equality in America. “It doesn’t matter what you look like, sound like, or where you come from, because these things do not determine your worth.”