Topeka Capital-Journal, Oct. 12, 2020 Click for original article
Don’t ask Topeka High senior Chrishayla Adams what she wants to do after high school.
Instead, ask her what she will be.
In discussing her future after high school, Adams is unambiguous and speaks matter-of-factly: She will be a lawyer. She will give a voice to the voiceless. She will be a part of something bigger than herself.
Adams holds no doubt about her future. It is the same kind of confidence that this year propelled her to become the statewide student president for the Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas program, the high school organization and class that supports students in exploring and reaching career opportunities after high school.
And it is that confidence she hopes to bring as she serves as the student face of the program.
“I hope to spread everything that JAG-K has to offer, because JAG-K is really a great class,” she said. “My angle is to show everyone else that their voices have power, and so do their plans.”
But before Adams could even dream about being a voice for the voiceless, she had to find her own.
Adams said she first enrolled in the JAG-K class as a sophomore, thinking it would be an easy A to help her keep up her already high grades.
“That’s what most people think when they get into JAG,” she said. “But honestly, you get out as much as you put in, and if you want to be successful, you get that out of JAG if you put in that mindset.”
Still, Adams said, she never would have imagined she would become the statewide student president, at least initially, and through constant involvement and work with the program, as well as help from teachers like Teresa Leslie-Canty, she steadily found confidence in herself. After completing a video making her case for the position, students at a statewide conference of JAG-K participants chose her as the organization’s next student president.
Leslie-Canty, a JAG-K teacher at Topeka High, said she and other teachers and students feed off of Adams’ infectious energy. In the few years Leslie Canty has known Adams, she said, she has been inspired by Adams’ passion and drive.
“She inspires others to do more, and I love that about her,” Leslie-Canty said. “She’s going to do whatever it is that she sets out to do.”
On Wednesday, Adams traveled to Hutchinson to participate in and guide other students through a state leadership conference. Adams spoke to students about the theme of ambition, and not calling dreams “dreams” but rather “plans.” She had developed that theme, as well as plans for the conference, in partnership with JAG-K’s adult leadership.
“Yeah, dreams are fine, but go for them,” she said. “Make a plan to achieve your dreams.”
Since becoming statewide student president, Adams said, she has taken the same perspective she has had for her JAG-K class and looked to get as much out of it as she can. Adams has met with district attorneys, state senators and even Gov. Laura Kelly, and she said all of those experiences have helped her network as she looks to start a professional career.
“I wish more people knew that JAG isn’t just a class you get an easy grade in,” she said. “It actually helps you succeed, as long as you try.”
As Adams looks to her future, she said, she is still balancing her ongoing commitments, such as Topeka High’s dance team, student government and political science club, among many others. Outside of school, Adams also joined the Kansas National Guard at the start of the pandemic, and in that commitment, she said, she is looking forward to serving her community.
“I love people,” she said. “I love serving my people, and I love being social, so me being able to do that for my community is just something that I will love to do.”
Adams has already been accepted into six colleges, but she has her mind set on either Kansas State University or the University of Kansas, where she said she will study criminology with a major in African American studies.
“When that does happen, I know I want to be a part of a movement that’s bigger than myself,” she said. “Right now, there are a lot of things happening in the world where there’s something that needs to be done, and I feel like a lot of people don’t have the voice yet to speak out and say something about it. I feel that if I can help be a part of that change and push people to that point, we can affect our community life.”