At 17, college student from Medford does it all

Kaya Kraft spends all the time she can helping others

Medford’s Kaya Kraft volunteers with the Civil Air Patrol, where she learns Air Force customs and protocol, as well as skills like flying and leadership. Kraft says the experience has prepared the 17-year-old to be a “better adult” (Kaya Kraft/Special to The Sun).

When she was in second grade, Kaya Kraft’s mom asked her what she had learned in school one day.

Her response? 

“Mom, if you don’t home-school me, my brain is going to rot.”

To Kraft’s surprise, her mother pulled her out of Medford public schools and got to work putting together a curriculum. 

Now 17, Kraft was home-schooled for a bit before learning through an online program. She graduated high school last year and is currently a freshman at Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC), where she’s studying to become a lawyer.

“I wanted to be a lawyer to help people,” the teen explained.

Kraft is fluent in sign language, so she plans to become a prosecutor who can aid deaf people in court. Her ultimate goal is to become a district attorney.

Helping others has always been Kraft’s main mission. At 10, she noticed businesses around Medford were struggling, so she set out to help them with a blog. Kaya’s Korner, which she  still maintains, features interviews with local business owners. The blog’s Facebook page, where Kraft posts recommendations and events, has nearly 500 followers.

Kraft also volunteers as a Cadet Chief Master Sergeant with the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary group of the United States Air Force. In her role, she aids in disaster relief and learns skills like leadership and teamwork.

“It’s a very good experience to become a better adult,” Kraft noted.

In her spare time, Kraft fundraises for local political campaigns and helped to raise a seeing eye dog. She said her broad involvement has helped her learn to maximize her time to do things that benefit the community.

“I think it’s important, because if you’re just living somewhere and you’re not taking part in what is around you, what are you doing?” she said. “Your town impacts your life, so you better impact everyone else’s.” 

As a college student, Kraft admits she has a leg up because of her experience in online learning. But she understands the lack of motivation other students in her classes are facing due to the pandemic.

As a word of advice, Kraft recommends staying engaged in what you’re learning. She became a liberal studies major so she could accommodate all her interests, like criminal justice, English, philosophy and political science.

“I always love a challenge,” Kraft explained. “Having that drive to try to be the best I can is what really makes me want to juggle all these things.”