Who Is Kayla?

You may have seen her some of her pieces here and there, but who really is this Kayla? As we grow and build, The Cnnekt has learned its positive impact and demand from women outside of New York City. So we officially introduce to you, Miss Kayla Gates Frazier by sharing her journey of how she became the woman she is today. 

"I believe that my biggest achievement, so far, is graduating college with less that $9,000 in debt- how that happened is a very long story.

It was instilled in me at an elementary age to be afraid of money, to save every penny, to always have money in your bank account and to get a “realistic” career. My family was about practicality over idealism- but I wasn’t the “practical career” type.

I was always a creative type. I knew I wanted to design clothes when I was 14- I would sketch elaborate gowns that I dreamed of making. I took Art throughout high school and loved mixed media. I loved breaking objects and making them into something completely different and new- incorporating the pieces into one of my paintings. I know myself so well now, but back then I was still scared to become a penniless artist.

In my senior year, I was never taught about scholarships or financial aid until it was too late. I knew my single mom could not pay for my school - I also knew my freelance photographer father could not pay for my school. The idea of loans scared the SHIT out of me. The idea of being rejected from all the schools I wanted to attend scared me even more, so I had this brilliant idea: I won’t apply to any schools!

I felt like high school was just this huge promoter of four year institutions and it made me feel defeated- but then, I educated myself on the benefits of attending a community college.

Community colleges have a stigma that the only people who attend are ones that can’t get into a four year university- which is very far from the truth. They have some of THE BEST financial aid, and two year programs. When I started to attend College of the Desert, I wanted to be a nurse. That was what I was told I wanted to be anyways- and I stuck with it for three years. I trained to be a Certified Nursing Assistant, worked in a nursing home and transferred to Tennessee Technological Institute in hopes of entering into their nursing program. It was there that I figured out, I did not have a passion for nursing.

I am sure I knew before that, but I did not want to admit it to myself. I left Tennessee, and moved to Philadelphia (that’s a completely different story.) where I took a year off. I worked at an Ulta and became the Assistant Manager, but still only made $13.25/hr, which is actually more than I have ever made at any job, and I have always had a job since I was 13. I was making a little over $600, after taxes, every two weeks. I basically had enough to pay my bills and save a little on the side. I was miserable, so I picked up a second job as a restaurant hostess. I became over-worked, depressed, and (even though I wasn’t) I felt alone.

I knew I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do as a career, and nothing I was accomplishing in Philadelphia was building toward the future I wanted. So, I sold almost everything I owned, withdrew everything from my savings and bank account and moved back to the West Coast - this time Washington. I wasn’t ready to go back to anywhere I have lived before - I thought the best thing is to just keep moving forward, and it worked.

I got a job serving at a restaurant and made way more than I made being an assistant manager. I had visited Washington a few times in the past; I knew they had excellent programs at their Community Colleges and decided I should start browsing through the programs to see if there was anything for me.

In the past, I had extensively researched fashion school and ruled them out because of the cost. I felt like becoming a Designer was out of my reach financially, then I came across Seattle Central. I found the two year (three year, including the prerequisites) School of Apparel Design and Development.

Alas, the dream career I have always wanted is obtainable! I jumped at the chance to get in the program. Step two was figuring out the funds. I just turned 24, which changes the rules in the financial aid world. When you are 24, you don’t need to have your parents income on your FAFSA. That had ruined my financial aid paperwork in the past. I was previously not eligible for financial aid due to my parents income, which had nothing to do with me. Luckily, when you are 24, they only need your income, and finally the terrible pay I had received for the past year paid off (pun intended?).

I went to school FOR FREE. I filled out tons of paperwork, and also had to gather a ton of paperwork. I had to track down all of these copies of personal financial documentation that I had no clue existed, and I waited for months- but it was worth it. As much as I wanted to give up, it all paid off, literally. I didn’t stop with financial aid either, I applied for scholarships.

The Apparel Program was an intense two years of my life. I had no time off- I even worked on weekends. There were multiple times I felt like I was going to break down- I am sure many people can relate. What kept me going was knowing I was working toward the job I wanted, and the life I wanted.  I was learning what I loved, and that was worth not having a social life, and being on the go for 80+ hours a week. Finally, during my last quarter, I quit working and took out a loan so that I could gain some kind of sanity back before graduation, and really focus on my final designs.

Graduating felt like this huge weight being lifted off of my shoulders. I received a design assistant job a month before I graduated, but I knew that it was just the beginning.

Here is what I learned from my journey- keep moving forward, be open to new opportunities, never give up, never compromise your dreams, be confident in your skills, believe in yourself, and always be an encouraging light to others. No matter how bad I thought I had it, I knew someone had it worse, and I knew that I had the ability to make my life better for myself- not everyone has that opportunity, so make the most of it."

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Written by Kayla: Seattle Ambassador

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