CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Graduation brings bittersweet moments for parents, teachers, and students, but for Kayla Kincaid, it has been a moment she’s worked toward her entire academic career.

The bumps along the way she hit shaped the graduate she is today and solidified that her calling will be in the medical field.

“This is the reason I should be doing what I’m doing today,” Kayla explained on the heels of her graduation.

She is leaving Olympic High School with numerous accomplishments, such as graduating a year early, completing an internship, and being certified in Health Science and Engineering pathways through the National Academy Foundation (NAF). She plans to study biomedical engineering at N.C. A&T in the fall.

“I want my name on something,” Kayla said of her aspirations. “Youngest female to discover this, or find a cure for this. I am just so excited for that moment.”

Each accolade, however, a breadcrumb that traces back to a defining moment no child or family should have to endure, and it began in dance class in seventh grade.

“Did a wrong move, wrong step, and it was like my head – it was a popping – burning sensation. Like water was flowing,” Kayla explained. “This isn’t right… we went to the neurologist; went to a neurosurgeon. Then found out that it was a brain tumor.”

Doctors discovered a brain tumor in the back right side of her head. Though the tumor is benign, it still carries a life-altering risk if dealt with.

One doctor told Kayla, “If he did touch it, in the area that it’s in my brain, it could potentially paralyze the whole left side of my body.”

It came, like all bad news, at the worst possible time.

She had just started taking high school math classes.

“This is my biggest year in seventh grade, but I’m also having to deal with learning about my body,” she said. “What is a brain tumor? How does this affect me.”

Though she knew her family and friends would not blame her for feeling sorry for herself, Kayla refused to slow down.

“Not only did I get a lot of migraines, I had a lot of headaches, which took out a lot of my class time,” Kayla said. “I couldn’t focus as much, but I did it! I passed.”

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Since the diagnosis, Kayla leaned heavily into higher education opportunities, emphasizing health science and engineering through the NFA program.

“It helped me figure out, because it’s so personal to me, what I want to do in the future,” Kayla said. “I wanted to be a dancer when I grew up. Now I want to be a biomedical engineer.”

Kayla’s graduation from Olympic High School will be on Tuesday.