Youth Development Program Graduate Profile: Kira Taforo

Youth Development Program Graduate Profile: Kira Taforo

My name is Kira Taforo. I am a member of the IBA Youth Development Program and a 2023 high school graduate.

Before joining the IBA Youth Development Program, I always dreamed of going to college. But it was only an idea in the back of my mind, because I didn't think that college was a possibility for me.

Since no one in my family has ever been to college, I didn’t really know what going to college meant. All I’d heard was that it was expensive. So, I always thought that you just gave them millions of dollars and then walked away with a degree – and I definitely knew I couldn’t afford that!

It All Starts with Belief

When I first joined the IBA YDP, I was so insecure that I wasn’t even sure if graduating high school was in my future. My biggest fear was taking the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test, because I didn’t think I could pass it. In fact, I was pretty sure that I would fail.

But one day, I talked to Sandra Soto, YDP Program Director, about it and every time I needed it, she has been there to listen and help me calm down. When I told Sandra about the MCAS, she did a lot more than just listening. She helped me study for the test and with her support, I started feeling like I could do it. Little by little, Sandra and the other mentors at IBA empowered me to believe in myself – until I took the test and I passed!

Once I had proven to myself that I could accomplish my goals, I started thinking that maybe I could go to college.

The Road to College

As part of the program, we took trips to visit colleges in the area and we also welcomed speakers who came to talk to us about our options for after high school.

I’ll never forget a speaker who was here last summer. It was someone from a bank who spoke to us about budgeting and planning for college. But during the talk, they also shared about their own college experience. And when they were describing it, I could actually see myself in that type of environment. That’s when I knew that I wanted to give college a shot.

I decided to start the application process on my own. But when I saw all the forms, I realized it was a lot more than I could handle alone. It was so much work, I felt overwhelmed and was ready to give up. That’s when Sandra Soto was once again there to help me out again.

She sat down with me, and we looked through the applications together. She helped me understand what they were asking and how to complete them. I remember going home later that day, sitting at the table with the applications in front of me and telling myself “I can do this.”

And I did it – and the best part was that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be! But I wouldn’t have completed that application if it hadn’t been for Sandra, who helped me realize that I could.

The Importance of Mentors and Peers

I’ve met so many interesting people through the YDP. The coordinators and the other youth here opened my eyes to different perspectives. And the volunteer speakers have motivated me more than they probably realize.

Before the program, I only knew other kids from my school and people from my neighborhood. Here, I’ve gotten to know others who have different ideas and perspectives. They’ve definitely had a positive impact in my life. So much that it made me want to see what else is out there.

When I go to college, I hope to make friends like the ones I’ve made through the YDP. I’m excited to connect with people who help me learn new things and continue growing as a person.

Preparing for the Future

If you’d asked me about finishing high school about a year ago, I would’ve probably said that I didn’t know if graduation was in my future. Now, thanks to the support from IBA and my own effort, I received my diploma on June 13th 2023, applied for and received a scholarship from the Blackstone Franklin Neighborhood Association andI’ll start college this fall at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS.

At the YDP, I learned that college is always an option no matter what you think. Whether you’re worried about the money or being accepted, you have to believe that you can do it.

For me, the best way to overcome those fears was by talking about them. In the YDP mentors, I found a sounding board that helped me talk through these big life decisions. They listened to my thoughts about where I wanted to spend the next years of my life and the things that I dreamed of doing but was too afraid to try. Together, we researched the options that were available to me and I realized that things weren’t as difficult as I thought.

Being part of the YDP inspired me to pursue a degree in nursing. I’m interested in becoming a registered nurse who specializes in sexual health. I’d like to help educate young women about their bodies, support mothers during pregnancy, and welcome babies into the world. My goal is to go into the medical field to make a difference in my community.