Voice of the Leader Dog Community: Kayla

A young woman with brown, French-braided hair and glasses sitting on a short stone wall with her arm around a yellow Labrador retriever sitting next to her. The dog is leaning heavily into the woman’s side. There is a statue of a Lion wearing a crown leaning on a large letter “K” behind them. There is a tall concreate and mirror building in the far background.

My name is Kayla. I have Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), so I do not have much peripheral vision (side vision). I was diagnosed at age 14. It took me walking into a parking meter in broad daylight for my family to realize something was wrong. After my diagnosis, I had to really accept everything and start adapting to this new world I had to live in. From that point on, I started getting involved with different organizations for people who are blind or visually impaired. I attended a 6-week camp in Pittsburgh, a 2-week camp every summer with the Northeast Sight Services and Community Services for Sight in Hazelton, Pennsylvania.

A group of 25 teenagers, male and female, some are holding canes in front of them, and some have canes on the ground next to them. There are also nine firefighters and 11 other adults standing with the teenagers in a large group. Next to them is a large sign with “Fire Station.”In 2017 I attended the Summer Experience Camp at Leader Dog. Ever since I attended camp, Leader Dogs for the Blind has been a huge part of my life. During my time at camp, many of the orientation and mobility instructors provided meaningful guidance about applying for a guide dog. They encouraged and empowered me to apply because they knew I was ready. I put my trust in all the instructors and from that day forward my life changed leading me on the path to developing my personal leadership skills.

In 2018 I returned to Leader Dog as a camp counselor. Following camp, I was scheduled to come back in July to train with my Leader Dog. I was paired with Leader Dog Kane who is a yellow Labrador retriever. We trained together with the guide dog mobility instructors for about a month. After that month, it was finally time to bring him home. This also meant that I would not see any of the staff until it was time for another Leader Dog.

Kane and I returned home. We wouldn’t stay long because I was starting college in less than a month. We completed our first semester of college when I decided to reach out to Leader Dog about possibly having an internship for the summer. As my spring semester in 2019 was coming to a close, I received a call about the internship that summer.

A close-up of a yellow Labrador retriever sitting in front of a beige desk in the Leader Dog offices. He is wearing a brown leather harness and a leather leash. His eyes are dark, his nose is brownish-pink and he has a large dark spot under his nose to his mouth that looks like a moustache.Once again I returned to Leader Dog, but this time with a different mission. This time I was there to give back to the organization that gave so much to me. At the time of my internship, Leader Dog was in the beginning of their partnership with AAA – The Auto Club Group. In order to grow the partnership, part of my internship was with AAA. I learned a lot from both organizations and took that experience with me when I returned home.

After the internship I kept in touch with both organizations. This led me to working part time for AAA – The Auto Club Group while allowing me to collaborate with Leader Dog. Together, Kane and I are full-time college students majoring in Business Administration Management and Human Resources Management at King’s College while working part-time as a Talent Acquisition Coordinator at AAA-The Auto Club Group.

As a college student, I have held various leadership positions. During my freshman year I ran for Student Government and became a student representative for the Class of 2022. I also participated in the Emerging Leaders Program where I learned different leadership techniques and further developed my leadership abilities.

In my sophomore year, I ran for Student Government and became the Class of 2022 secretary. I also become an Orientation Assistant during freshman orientation, volunteering my time to welcome and orient members of the incoming freshman class.

During my junior year, I became the Secretary of our Multicultural and International Club that provides inclusive events on campus. I was an Orientation Assistant again but gained more responsibility by assistant teaching the first-year experience class for incoming freshman for four days. I also became a peer tutor on campus.

A group of three women and one man are in a living room with hardwood floors. They are all smiling and looking forward. There is a Christmas tree next to them. Two of the woman are standing behind a couch, a man and a woman are seated on the couch. The man has a black Labrador retriever seated in front of him, the woman on the couch has a yellow Labrador retriever seating in front of her.In my senior year I was promoted from Orientation Assistant to Holy Cross Experience Leader. I was in charge of assistant teaching the first-year experience class for the entire semester and acclimating the incoming students to the college. I was also promoted from Secretary to Vice President of the Multicultural and International Club, and continued to tutor (I am working on becoming a certified tutor on campus). Most recently, I led a sensitivity training about disabilities and other difficult topics for our theatre department on campus.

Kane and I will be graduating from college a semester early, this December. After graduation, we will begin working remotely full-time for AAA-The Auto Club Group. Since this is remote work, we hope to travel the states and spend more time with family, especially my brother and his Leader Dog, Wings.

Would you like to be considered to write a future installment of Voices of the Leader Dog Community? If so, please let us know! All emails will be answered, but we can’t promise everyone will have the opportunity to participate.

Read more about our Voices of the LDB Community initiative.

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