Kayla Lehne is on a mission to earn $30,000 for a Global Gap program called Projects Abroad. The 27-week volunteer program is designed for high school graduates spending a year before attending college to explore the world and learn about global issues while helping with volunteer projects.
The 18-year-old Rock Canyon High School graduate is hoping to find her place in the world and figure out what to do next with high school over. She wants to grow as a person, learn about other cultures and learn to appreciate the things in her life.
The mission to explore the world was not always in Kayla’s future. She fell into a rut before pulling herself back up.
During Kayla’s sophomore year, she fell in with the wrong crowd. She began using drugs and alcohol and spiraled out of control. She lost her self-respect. By the end of the school year, she’d developed a substance abuse problem and was sent to a residential treatment center in Utah, leaving her family for 18 months.
The strict military-style program saved Kayla’s life. She gained back her sense of self confidence and integrity and was able to turn her life around. She said one of the biggest lessons she learned was how to have fun, without the aid of drugs or alcohol.
“I started to want to change for myself, not just for my parents,” she said. “The more I looked at the things I was doing I realized it wasn’t working and I was trying to fill things in my life with drugs and alcohol, and realized there was underlying issues. Once I figured that out, I was able to move forward.”
Seeing her daughter leave home wasn’t easy for Kendall Lehne. She already had lost her daughter mentally and now Kayla would be gone physically for treatment. But when Kayla returned, life changed for the better.
“I had my daughter back tenfold, and she was an even better human being than I remember before she started using,” Kendall said. “Her heart was in the right place and her head was in the right place and we could be a family again.”
When Kayla returned she switched high schools. Returning to high school was difficult because it was hard to connect with people her age because so many of them engage in alcohol and drugs as a social outlet, she said. But she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I can now get more accomplished, and I have better relationships with my family,” she said. “I’m just able to do the things I like, and I’m better at them.”
Kayla’s focus is on earning as much money as possible for Projects Abroad. The program will send her to Ghana, South Africa, Peru, India and Thailand. She will do a variety of things like working for a human rights firm, teaching elementary level students marine conservation and awareness. She leaves the United States at the end of September. Until then she is doing fundraising and working five days a week at a coffee shop to earn money toward her $30,000 fee. She is hosting a silent auction and pool party from 8-10 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Clark Farms community pool, 17301 Clarke Farms Drive in Parker. There will be a variety of items up for bid along with free food and beverages. People can donate money online at http://funds.gofundme.com/2ftv0.
Kayla realizes this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She is preparing to keep her mind open and to soak up the experience.
“I think through this experience I will have a better idea of what I want to do in the future, and hopefully I will learn to fully appreciate everything in my life, because I don’t think I fully understand that,” she said. “It’s really easy to be close-minded about a lot of things, and there are so many beliefs and customs and I want to create that acceptance for different parts of the world.”