Khaai Wilson, Youth of the Year for the Girls & Boys Clubs of South Central Kansas, credits good parents.
Khaai Wilson is the 2023 Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas in Wichita. (Ashley Hatman/Courtesy photo)

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Khaai Wilson could have had a very different life – one that didn’t include good parents teaching him to make the good choices that led to being named 2023 Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas. The award recognizes the club member who best embodies academic success, good character and a healthy lifestyle. 

“The woman I was born to became a drug addict who couldn’t take care of her children, so I was put into foster care before I could even turn 2 years old,’ Wilson says. “And a couple of days later a family took me into their care. They adopted me 18 months later – my real mom and dad.”

Wilson’s biological mother gave birth to 11 children while using drugs, he says. Her drug use meant that one of his siblings was unable to walk for a long time.  “Why does someone have the right to ruin your life before you’re even born?” Wilson asks. “Everyone makes choices, and she made all of the wrong ones. That’s no woman I could ever call my mother.”

He credits adoption by good parents

He considers his real parents the ones who adopted and raised him: “My mom is Sara Kirkpatick, a woman who isn’t perfect, but she made a choice one day to choose me. Along with my dad, Earl Wilson, a real father, not the sperm donor who went around getting women pregnant.”

Wilson credits his adoptive parents with teaching him the value of hard work and the importance of education.

“My dad always tells me to get a career, not a job. My parents both work jobs, and that’s why I’m going to college,” Wilson says. “I want to find a career in a field with people who are just as passionate as I am. College will help me find a path where I can have control over my future.”

Getting into college shouldn’t be a problem. The Wichita Heights High School sophomore has a 4.0 GPA and aspires to be valedictorian. He’s already stacked up many achievements through extracurricular activities in middle school, including cross country, basketball, track, band and club soccer. In high school he decided to focus on soccer. He’s already made varsity and lettered as a freshman.

He’s also been active in the Boys & Girls Club, where he’s built close friendships over the past five years. Boys & Girls Clubs exist to provide youth with opportunities they might not get otherwise. Clubs offer warm-cooked meals, a gym, and art room, a dance room, a technology room and a teen center. In summers, members go on field trips weekly. High school students may participate in Club 2 Career, which exposes them to career possibilities. 

“I’ve learned of many jobs I would like, and even more I wouldn’t,” Wilson says. “It helps narrow down my college options.” He is interested in business management and entrepreneurial-related work.

He’s driven to be good role model for brothers

Wilson says his drive to succeed comes from within and a desire to be a role model. “There needs to be something there motivating you and giving you that spark … I have a reason to wake up every day and accomplish things. It’s important to me because I want to show people the right path to take in life.”

He’s particularly concerned about doing right by his younger and older brothers. 

“I want to be able to pave the way for my younger brother, so his life can be as easy as possible. He is very smart, but he too was born to the same birth mother as me … His birth situation was worse than mine, being stuck in the hospital for months after he was born. I want him to know that he can succeed; I think he just needs someone in his life that knows his pain.

“I want my older brother to be proud of me, and have a younger brother he can count on. Even if he wasn’t born to the same man or woman as me, he was raised by the same mom and dad.

“I want to be someone who can guide them on the right path, and I believe I can do so. One day, I know sadly our parents won’t be here to help all of us, so I want to work so I can get to a place to help my brothers out.”

Wilson says this mindset is not shared by many of his classmates. 

“A lot of my graduating class don’t have their priorities straight. For many students in my graduating class, school isn’t important. … The way I am raised, (that’s something) I could never dream of,” Wilson says.

Good parents saw that learning never stopped

Wilson says when the pandemic came, learning in his house didn’t stop even as schools shut down and sent students home. “The school would send out packets for us to do that were entirely way too easy for me, and I felt like my learning had come to a halt. Then my parents, my dad especially, took it upon themselves to keep me and my brother learning.”

But he realizes that people can’t control who their parents are. 

“You become what you grow up around. Many people grow up in bad house situations, or around the wrong people in general. They take their priorities from the people around them,” he says. “So when people try to neglect school, it’s disappointing. Parents need to teach their children better… Priorities start with the parents, because no one teaches their children habits better than they do. 

“My parents have always been there for me and given me everything I need in life. I consider them my saviors.” 

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