Meet Kayla Vega, 17, vivacious high school senior en route to Saint Joseph’s University in the fall. By looking at her, you wouldn’t know it, but this exceptional woman has moved mountains to get where she is today.
Kayla Vega, a senior at Archbishop John Carroll High School, had all the outward appearances of success. She was a former cheerleader, a Best Buddies and Diversity Club member, and volunteered at the local children’s library.
Photo Courtesy: DeAnna Vega.
She won the Outstanding Academic Excellence Award in 2016 and was a 2016 James J Foti Memorial Scholarship Winner. However, in late 2019, Kayla started getting sick.
Photo courtesy: DeAnna Vega
Photo courtesy of DeAnna Vega.
“I have been sick my whole life with unexplained fevers, joint pain, multiple stomach problems, and other little conditions that required me to be put on a lot of medicine.” Sometimes she would miss school for a few weeks at a time and literally was drained of energy with no motivation left. Missing school and decreased energy sent Kayla deeper and deeper into anxiety and depression. When she was younger, Kayla had to have a feeding tube put in as she was underweight. “I have it out now but because of it I will always have a “second belly button.” I’ve started to accept it and love it but I didn’t really go out of my way to tell people because I was insecure about it.” As if all of this wasn’t enough, Kayla started having thoughts of suicide and was diagnosed with lupus, an auto immune disorder. Between all those problems, her grades plummeted and she missed months of school.
And yet, she refused to give up!
Kayla fought through her lupus, depression, anxiety, ADHD and non-epileptic seizures with the help of her family and close friends. She especially credits her mother, who refused to give up, and taught Kayla the importance of advocating for herself. Originally, Kayla wasn’t supposed to be in the National Honor Society due to “not enough volunteer hours,” but DeAnna advocated for her daughter and informed the committee of all the trials and tribulations Kayla faced. Kayla is a proud member of NHS.
Kayla toiled on despite her adversities and ended up applying to and being accepted to 14 different colleges and universities with scholarships and grant awards totaling over $1,000,000. She plans to attend St. Joseph University in the fall and wants to become a physician’s assistant. “I want to be a physicians assistant but in which field yet I am not sure. I know that I probably will work with children that have physical ailments like me and be able to be there for them as a PA and a person. I want to be financially stable and be able to support myself without anyone’s help. Because of this, I am determined to work as hard as it takes to accomplish this goal.”
Photo courtesy of DeAnna Vega.
Here at J&J Studios, we were moved by her story and wanted to give her something to remember her senior year by. Her mother had told us that in her original senior pictures, she looked thin and sick due to her disease, and how disappointed she was with the way the pictures turned out. We decided to gift her a half-day portrait session at her high school and local Wissahickon Creek. Please enjoy the pictures and thank you for reading.
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Since 2015, the charity arm of J&J Studios – J&J Cares – has given away over $23,500 in direct contributions, goods, and photographic and video services to causes that need it most.
Our charity in 2019 focused on:
- Athletes with Disabilities: sports and activities for veterans, handicapped or otherwise immobilized people.
- Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride: mens prostate and mental health
- American Diabetes Association: Manage, cure and prevent diabetes.
- CHOP: A world leader in the advancement of healthcare for children.
- Jevs Human Services: focusing on individuals with physical, developmental, and emotional challenges.
- Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation: devoted to the global preservation program of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Site
- Turning points for Children: proven, innovative programs that nurture families with children who are struggling.
- Twist out Cancer: Brushes with Cancer focuses on connecting patients and artists on their journey with cancer.
Our charity in 2020 is focusing on:
- E3 Center: Education, Employment, and Empowerment. A Youth Opportunity grant from the United States Department of Labor with main branch in Center City, Philadelphia.
- Adopt a Senior: Recognizing exceptional seniors despite no live graduations, cap and gown ceremonies or commencement speeches.
Have a cause you think we should support in 2020? Let us know!