Metro Parks staff member named Boys & Girls Clubs’ Youth of the Year
Kalayah DeGregory,18, works with middle schoolers, summer campers
The young woman chosen as the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Youth of the Year shares her talents with Metro Parks.
Kalayah DeGregory has the dazzling smile of a born celebrity, plus the contagious energy and gift of gab of a motivational speaker. These are among the traits that make Kalayah a great ambassador for the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, which chose her as its 2016 Youth of the Year.
She’s no less valuable to Metro Parks, both as a reliable member of the Metro Parks Summer Playground team and working in the after-school program at Stewart Middle School, where she teaches dance. She’s danced since she was 8 and enjoys hip hop, ballet, jazz and lyrical or contemporary performance.
Her Metro Parks manager is grateful to employ her. “I’ve seen Kalayah in action both at the middle school and on playgrounds. She’s amazing in both roles,” said Tareena Joubert, manager of Metro Parks’ community and youth services.
Kalayah, a senior this spring at Tacoma’s Wilson High School, credits Boys & Girls Club mentors for much of her success so far. “They helped me persevere through all my struggles and adversities,” she told television viewers during a CityLine interview earlier this year.
Those “struggles and adversities” included a period of homelessness near the start of her high school career. Kalayah’s single mom, Charnaine Jones, had lost her job. For months, the family – Kalayah, her younger brother and her mother – had no permanent address and depended on friends to take them in. Their circumstances were further complicated by the early death of Kalayah’s maternal grandmother, who had been the family’s keystone.
Alicia Mathurin, Metro Parks youth development recreation technician, has known Kalayah since she was about 10 years old. Mathurin is also Kalayah’s supervisor at Stewart. “Kalayah has broad shoulders. She can carry a lot of pressure. She’s an old soul when it comes to that,” Mathurin said. “I’ve never seen her in a bad mood. She just sets aside her troubles and goes on.”
Mathurin spares no adjective when asked about Kalayah’s standout qualities, including passion, integrity, empathy and a sense of humor. “She takes initiative. She’s authoritative in a good way. She can go anywhere and lead.”
Kalayah aimed to attend a historically black college after high school, and she reached her goal: She’ll attend Clark Atlanta University, a private school in Georgia. Eventually, she’d like to own and run her own business. And she’d like to do something to support young people. “My dream is that every kid has a mentor,” she said.