Miami Palmetto senior Kayla Burgess started her high school career at Coral Reef where she was in the International Baccalaureate program and class president in her freshman and sophomore years.
But during her sophomore year, she had an academic situation in one class and her advisors urged her to transfer to her home school instead of allowing her grade point average to drop. So, she transferred to Palmetto for her junior and senior years.
“Things happen for a reason,” she says. “And this happened for a reason. I was able to meet some wonderful teachers and I made new friends.”
Her new guidance counselor suggested that she try out for the NCCAP Afro- Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO).
“It’s for African American kids to showcase their talents, whether it’s in science or performing arts or writing or music,” Burgess says. “I did drama. I represented the Miami-Dade branch and I was flown to Kansas City, Missouri to the NAACPACTSO National Competition.”
There, Burgess did a three-minute piece for the Performing Arts Dramatic category about a young girl who was going through the racial genocide in Rwanda.
“I won first place, I won the gold medal,” she says. “My family was so proud. They were screaming. My mom went and she bought the DVD. You see my mom at the corner of the video jumping up and down.”
While the other 100 dramatic performers did monologues from plays, Burgess was the only one who did an original piece. The monologue ran about three minutes.
“That was something different for me because I’ve never written a monologue before,” she says. “Poetry is important. I enjoy writing poetry more than monologues.”
She wrote the piece after traveling to Africa on a mission trip during her sophomore year.
“That was part of the inspiration,” she says. “Also watching the movie Hotel Rwanda.”
Burgess took the mission trip with a group from Old Cutler Presbyterian Church where her aunt works. They went to Benin, Africa, a French speaking country.
“I’ve been taking French since I was in the first grade at F.C. Martin and Ammons Middle and Coral Reef,” she says.
Although they were given French lessons, they still needed her expertise with the language. She was able to act as a translator for the group. During the trip, they helped the children of the country.
“We provided clothing, daily meals for two weeks and shelter for them to play games, make arts and crafts and learn songs and learn the lesson of the day,” she says.
Burgess continues to volunteer at her church, Homestead Christian Center, where she helps teach dance and works with the actors who take part in the church plays. She also works at the Vacation Bible School.
“I dance out of school for my church and I perform at different churches when they have functions,” she says.
At Palmetto, she is a member of the African Heritage Club and Dfyit. She also takes part in drama.
“I love it, I’ve been doing it since God knows when.” she says. “I love performing, I love being the center of attention. I love to make people laugh smile.”
At Coral Reef, Burgess was on the track team and she plans to go out for track at Palmetto this school year. As for college, she hopes to attend either Florida A&M or Florida State University to study pharmacy. Drama classes will also be on the schedule.