From a Terrific Kid to a Kiwanian

A longtime Kiwanis family member shares her service journey.

By Karisya “Ysa” Moran-Adames

I first got introduced to Kiwanis 15 years ago in 2007, when I was honored as a Terrific Kid in the second grade. I was beyond ecstatic and excited to be recognized as a Terrific Kid at Mintz Elementary School in Brandon, Florida. At the time, I had no idea that this ceremony would be one of many encounters that I would have with the Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon, nor how much of an impact this organization would have on my life. 

Fast forward to 2014: I was a shy freshman in high school, looking for a way to volunteer and make a difference in my community. I was then reunited with the Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon as we went on a journey to charter a Key Club at my high school. Through the chartering process, the Kiwanians were very encouraging and helped me to find a voice in myself that I didn’t know I had.

In my sophomore year of high school, I reluctantly took on the position of Key Club president and had no idea how to lead a club or to inspire the Key Club members at my school to exemplify the Key Club motto “Caring — our way of life.” The Kiwanians saw in me, at the age of 15, something that I wouldn’t recognize in myself for years: a leader. As I went on as the Key Club president for two more years, the Kiwanians continued to support me and push me to be not only the best Key Club member, but the best leader I could be. 

In my remaining years of high school, the Kiwanis club helped me to be a better leader, and I went on to be recognized as a G. Harold Martin Outstanding Key Club President two years in a row for the Florida District. The Kiwanians also helped me to be recognized as a Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero of Tomorrow, which awarded me a total of US$50,000 — with $25,000 applied to my education and the other $25,000 to the organization of my choice. 

Of course, I chose the Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon to receive the grant, and they have been able to use the money to fund Project SonrYsa, which is named in my honor, to fight food insecurity in the Brandon area.

Since graduating high school and attending college, I have continued my involvement with the organization that has given me so much by stepping in to serve as the social media director and increasing club awareness online — and by increasing my efforts in Project SonrYsa.

Fourteen years after I was first named a Terrific Kid by the Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon, I officially joined the club as a Kiwanis member. The Kiwanis organization has truly been the single most important factor in my life trajectory. The Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon embodies the mission of improving the world one child and one community at a time, and  it has inspired me to help serve the children of the world. As a new Kiwanian, I can only hope that I can give back to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon as much as they have given to me.

This story originally appeared in the August 2021 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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