Kayla Thompson

Kayla Thompson

Site Coordinator

Boys and Girls Club

Founder & CEO        

The Finesse Center                 

St. Louis, MO            

Hazelwood East

Webster University, BA, Cultural Anthropology

UMSL, Master of Education

Urban League Young Professionals

 

Tell us about your role as a Site Coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club.

As the Site Coordinator at the Boys and Girls Club, I am responsible for directing and managing all aspects of club programs and activities. If the Boys and Girls Club were compared to school, my position would be the “principal” of my club site.  Although I have more of an administrative position than I did when I was teaching, I still love to interact with club members during programming when I can.  

Your professional and community work is rooted in education. What brought that into focus for you?

When I was 19 my father was shot and killed in an attempted robbery. The boys that took his life were younger than I was at that time. After his death, I struggled with comprehending how people so young could make the decision to take someone’s life. My dad’s death brought me back to St. Louis (I was attending Hampton University) and I got involved with mentoring and tutoring while a student at Webster University. Throughout my undergraduate career I kept coming back to that first question, “How could someone make the decision to take someone’s life?” That essential question led me to the road of becoming an educator. People, kids especially, make bad decisions when they don’t know any other way. Education is a way out. A quality education provides us with not only more opportunities, but with the ability to think critically about the world around us. I became a teacher because I wanted to show children that no matter what bad decisions they make as kids, someone does love them and will always treat them like a human being, and will always show them there is a better way.

What lessons from your experience in Teach for America have been most helpful as you’ve continued your career?

Teach For America required Corps members to attend several diversity trainings throughout our two-year commitment. We were required to think critically about the work we were doing, and how our identity shaped our experiences in the classroom. TFA not only helped me evaluate how my personal experiences dictated what I did in the classroom, but how my story could be a powerful tool to create educational justice.

What inspired you to open The Finesse Center, and what services does it provide?

Unfortunately, the circumstances that led me to open the Finesse Center are very similar to what led me to become an educator. My older brother was shot and killed in an attempted robbery. He was only 28, and was just getting started in his career as a graphic designer. My brother was a talented artist and always welcomed other creatives into his home. When he died, I didn’t want his artwork to collect dust in my basement, and I didn’t want those creatives he helped to stop creating. This led to the Center. We provide a space for creatives to come network, collaborate, and create. It’s a co-working art space dedicated to artists just like my brother. It’s also an art gallery of his work. It’s a place where his work and the energy he created can live forever.

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