Kayla Conard – Unsung Hero

Kayla Conard, a 23-year-old young woman from Richwood, is being recognized as an Unsung Hero by the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) for her work during the pandemic.

Kayla is a daycare worker for Nicholas County Starting Points in Richwood.

DRS began working with Kayla when she was a junior in high school to help her prepare for her transition from school to employment. Kayla graduated from Richwood High School in 2016. From there, she went on to participate in a postgraduate program at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind in Romney.

Kayla has been deaf since she was a baby. She has a cochlear implant in her left ear and uses a hearing aid in her right ear, but she is unable to hear regular conversation. To communicate, Kayla primarily uses sign language, texting and other assistive technology devices, like an iPad and a laptop computer.

Growing up, Kayla knew she wanted to help people, particularly children. Working with DRS, Kayla tried several different types of jobs but according to DRS Rehabilitation Counselor for the Deaf Rusty Cole, she always came back to her original goal of helping kids.

While in high school, Kayla volunteered at the daycare, and she has been employed there for more than a year and a half now.

On the job, Kayla helps teachers in the classroom. She also takes care of toddlers and babies – changing diapers and pull-ups, getting snacks, putting children down for naps, and so much more. They have overcome communication barriers by using pictures if Kayla is unable to recognize what a child needs or wants. A few of the kids are learning some of the basic sign language that Kayla uses throughout the day.

Prior to the pandemic, cleaning and sanitizing were part of Kayla's responsibilities. However, since the beginning of COVID-19, she has to do more intensive, deep cleaning of toys and surface areas to try to protect the children from getting sick. Kayla and the other staff members wear masks while they work, and they wash their hands a lot.

With the onset of the pandemic, there has also been additional stress for Kayla. Not only does she worry about the health of the children she takes care of, but she maintains a level of concern about her own circumstances, as well, because she has asthma and a lower immune system.

To deal with the stress, Kayla practices deep breathing and prayer. She does not let the current environment keep her from performing her job.

According to Cole, kindness is Kayla's most endearing personal characteristic. And she carries that with her every day in her work. He also believes her to be a hard worker who is dedicated to her job.

Kayla is a very happy individual. She enjoys spending time with her family and her dog, Sonic. Professionally, she is working to advance her skills and become certified through the West Virginia State Training and Registry System (STARS) so that she can also teach at the daycare.

Cole nominated Kayla for the Unsung Heroes recognition because of how hard she works for the benefit of her local community and because of her positive attitude in everything she does.

Kayla is excited and proud to be recognized.