Kayla Higgins can hardly wait to go to jail.
A bright 20-year-old North York resident, Higgins is looking at it from a professional perspective – that of helping people – and figures one of the best places is to have an office right in a detention centre.
Higgins grew up in a neighbourhood not far away from an area of the city with a reputation for gun and drug crime – Jane and Finch.
Driven by passion and a strong commitment to social justice, she wanted to make an impact and help people – those she said who have made mistakes – survive and thrive.
And Higgins, quite adamant about her future and also that of packaging a combination of Certificate, Diploma and Degree – from academic programs related to social work and community service – isn’t wasting any time.
“Everyone makes mistakes, some more serious than others, and we hear of far too many stories about people making wrong decisions,” said Higgins, who already has a certificate from George Brown College and is now working on the diploma in an intense community worker program.
“I want to be one of those individuals that helps change lives, get them back on track and become good citizens. What’s wrong with that?”
Cooperation, teamwork and mutual support are three of the key factors Higgins believes are necessary to pull off her career plans.
And all three are what a humble, but conscientious Higgins does so well outside of the educational classroom – as a member of the George Brown women’s basketball team.
“Society has inmates at the bottom of everything,” she said. “I can understand that bad things got them there, but I believe having the right people around to help them can go a long way to correcting problems.”
Higgins, who has never been in conflict, admits she has had friends spend time in jail.
And, after graduating from Emery Collegiate, spent two years working at a City of Toronto community centre near her home where she benefitted from an understanding of those with issues and others needing assistance or simply a place away from the challenges of the day.
“I know people also have to be willing to change after making a mistake,” she said. “To do my job, I need to be able to understand what the problems are and then determine a way to help people work their way out of it and be happy with their lives.”
On the basketball court, a time when Higgins breaks from the challenges of school work to the demands of winning games, the 5-foot-10 forward can be tough to play against.
“She is a caring person and has a tough exterior,” said George Brown basketball coach Sharon Butler. “I’m actually watching her transform into a leader. She’s anxious to do well, understands her actions can affect others and, now maturing as a leader, she’s communicating well both on and off the basketball court.”
Higgins earned her way on to the starting basketball roster this season at George Brown after spending last year coming off the bench and helping the Huskies claim a bronze medal – their first in 20 years in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association. She’s also one of the top scorers on the George Brown roster.
“Like anything, you work hard and wait for the opportunities,” said Higgins, an MVP at Emery and now top scorer in four pre-season games in the past month with the Huskies (1-4).
“Basketball is a game and quite a bit different from what I want to do with my future – to help change society.”