Student Spotlight 2023: Kayla Lewis, U.S. Navy

Tell us about yourself.

I am from Winchester, California, and I served as a nuclear electronics technician in the U.S. Navy until I medically retired in 2019. I joined the Navy to serve my country and continue my family’s tradition of military service. I also wanted a fresh start and to get out on my own. A fun fact about myself is that I am a published poet.

Why did you decide to participate in WSP this summer, and was there a shift in your confidence level from the first day of the course to the last day?

I had some college before attending WSP’s humanities course at the University of California, Irvine. I was pursuing my associate’s degree at Mt.San Jacinto College and had already changed my major twice. I decided to apply to WSP because I wanted a refresher before returning to class after taking a gap year for my mental health and to learn better study and time management skills. I also wanted to try to reconnect with the veteran community. I felt like an outsider after my medical retirement and thought WSP could be a way for me to reconnect. 

I was pretty nervous when I walked in on the first day of the course, more so about being around veterans again than in the classroom. I ended up feeling like I had a community again and found that feeling I had been missing since I got out. I felt really good about starting classes again.

What were some key insights you gained during your course, and what is your biggest takeaway?

It is better to say that you don’t know and go ahead and ask the question. Also, the importance of focusing on the ideas and sources in a conversation instead of just voicing your opinion trumps not knowing the answer. The goal is to find the answer. Academic conversations are very different from day-to-day conversations, and respect is essential to everyone’s success there. 

However, learning how to ask for help and what resources are available for veterans really changed the game for me. I do not feel alone anymore, and I know that will help me succeed in those moments when school gets really tough.

How would you describe your overall experience?

Eye-opening. I was expecting to come out with a basic refresher on how to be a student, and I came out with the knowledge, confidence, and community to tackle everything life throws at me.

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