WSU grad makes history, cites faith

By Sheila Allen
NW Baptist Convention

SHELTON, Wash. — A young woman with a “God-given gift” is poised for a bright future as she anticipates the future.

At 16 years old, Kayla Heard is a graduate of Washington State University, the youngest in the history of the institution. She recently participated in graduation ceremonies at the Pullman, Wash., campus, although she took her classes online throughout her college years.

Born in Washington State, Heard showed an aptitude for language at an extremely young age, learning the alphabet at seven months old and reading by 18 months old.

“My parents were both big influences in my life,” Heard said. “They met in Hong Kong and eventually moved to Washington, but we traveled a lot and lived in places like Mexico and Venezuela where my dad worked as a mechanical engineer. My mother is from the Philippines, so we have been there several times. While my mother did not have a background in teaching, she is extremely intelligent and homeschooled me in my early years.”

Heard progressed so quickly through the curriculum that she completed her high school studies as a ten-year-old. Her parents were then faced with helping the young girl select a path that has propelled her to this unique place in life.

“I can’t explain how I have been able to accomplish this — it is a God-given gift,” Heard said. “I just advanced naturally as my mom let me learn at my own pace. As a younger girl I enjoyed biology a lot, as well as history, English and writing. But I don’t naturally excel at everything.”

Heard’s parents trusted God to provide a good college that would accept such a young student and at 11 years old, first enrolled at Olympic College and then transferred to Edmonds Community College at age 12. The search was confined by the need for a college with a distance learning option and a full program. She then moved on to Washington State where she obtained a history degree and a secondary concentration in political science.

“I believe we should learn from our past and the experiences of others for a better society,” Heard noted. “That knowledge is invaluable if we are going to impact the future. I hope to go into the practice of law or work in a governmental office that relates to administration or the legislature. I want to participate in making changes in our communities to make a positive impact.”

Heard and her family have been active members of Northside Baptist Church in Shelton, Wash., for several years, where she is active in the youth group and also plays the keyboard each week for the worship team. With six years of formal piano lessons under her belt, Heard enjoys the opportunity to express another side of herself in music.

“I play each week because God has blessed me with the talent to play the keyboard, guitar and to sing, so I want to use that for his glory,” Heard said.

Although she made the decision to follow Christ at just four years old, her faith was severely tested at age 13 when her father died.
“I had just lost my dad and was drifting away from God, but then realized I needed him even more, so I rededicated my life to follow him,” Heard said. “God has filled the place he left, so it’s not a problem any more.”
Heard sees herself as a social person and enjoys activities with family, friends and church acquaintances.
“Nobody treats me differently,” Heard said. “There is no awkwardness there with other teenagers, so I’ve never had issues with my intelligence – because I just view it as a good gift from God.”

While she begins the search for an accredited law school in the state, Heard also is working on another important milestone – getting her driver’s license. She is also putting together her resume in hopes of earning a spot as an intern or employee in a government office.

“I really prefer to just ride as a passenger and listen to my MP3 player instead of driving,” Heard said. “I like to listen to hard rock and alternative rock, as well as lots of Christian music. I plan to live at home for now, but may have to move to Seattle for law school. God has helped me so much – I couldn’t get where I am today without his help. There were times when I was physically and mentally exhausted from my studies, but I trusted Jesus to help me, and a peace would just come over me and I got through it. God has just inspired me with strength and endurance.

“He’s presenting me with great opportunities and I want to work for him. I want others to know I am a Christian and champion for God to others.”

Heard offers advice to other young women in her own generation.

“It is very important to value and respect yourself, just as Jesus values you,” Heard said. Don’t underestimate your worth. Just remember that your studies will build a firm foundation for life, while other things such as popularity and dating will fade. It has been crucial in my maturity that Jesus loves me and accepts me for who I am.”

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