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@School: Kia Griffith

May 31, 2009 — Brain drain tends to be a problem in the Virgin Islands for employers, with the best and the brightest frequently seeking employment elsewhere. But Kia Griffith, one of the brightest graduating seniors on St. Croix, won't exacerbate that problem: She plans for her career to be here.
She hopes to be the 2009 valedictorian at Central High School, an achievement that would earn her a full scholarship to the University of the Virgin Islands. The honor would enable her to stay on island and earn a degree in elementary education.
"I have been to the States and I can't even eat the food there — it makes me sick," she says. "I love it here — I would get homesick being away from home."
Griffith plans to teach special education and focus on the hearing impaired right here on St. Croix after getting her degree at UVI and her certification in American Sign Language.
"I will have to go to the States to get certified to teach American Sign Language, though," she says.
Getting certified shouldn't be difficult: She has been fluent in sign language since she was 12, learning it from her mother. She is part of the Kingdom Hall Jehovah Witness signing evangelical group, doing Bible studies with the hearing impaired in her spare time.
"Ever since I was little, I wanted to go out and preach to the hearing-impaired," Griffith says.
She has already earned five local scholarships, but the full ride from UVI for being valedictorian is really what she wants. While the scholarship is important, she has had the goal to be number one in her class for years.
"I have wanted to be valedictorian since I was in the sixth grade," Griffith says.
She was ranked third in the sixth grade and sixth in the eighth grade. Seniors have just finished finals, and she will find out this week whether she is number one in her class.
Griffith says her mom, Dahlia Francis, has been the biggest influence in her life.
"My mom had me when she was 15, and continued to go to school and earned her degree in education at UVI," Griffith says. "I'm so proud of her — she stayed in school and never stayed back."
She remembers when she was 2 going to Central High School with her mom for afterschool programs. She also remembers her mom reading her Bible stories, and she recalls starting to read Dr. Seuss books at an early age.
Another big influence has been her calculus teacher and National Honor Society advisor, Karisma Hector.
"Ms. Hector is always pushing me to go the extra mile," Griffith says. "Even when I'm apprehensive, as in taking on the presidency of NHS for the last two years."
Hector has nothing but praise for Griffith.
"She is very bright with a promising future," Hector says. "I expect she is going to do great things."
Griffith says there are four essential things in her life: The first is God, then her mom, followed by her "second mom," Ms. Hector, and her friends.
One of her best friends, Krystal Martin, says she is fortunate to have known Griffith the past four years.
"I am happy to have met Kia," Martin says. "She is a great friend and an inspiration, pushing me to take advanced-placement classes along with her."
When asked about the problems with young people on St..Croix, Griffith says they are due to the lack of guidance from parents.
"Parents need to instill the love of God in their children," she says. "I've had moments where my conscience helped me do the right thing."
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