by Jaclyn Youhana Garver
When Kayti Austin was younger, she regularly visited the Center for Whitley County Youth. She was homeschooled, and she struggled to make friends and fit in, which resulted in depression and anxiety.
At the Center, she found help through mentors, so now she wants to be able to help others. She volunteers there however she’s needed. Recently, she worked with a group of high school girls.
“Right now, we’re talking about bullying,” Kayti says. “We have deeper conversations about bullying; what that looks like in their lives; how they should react to it; and how they can help others who’ve been through it.”
Kayti graduated from Ivy Tech Community College’s Fort Wayne Campus in December with a degree in psychology. Not only does she enjoy volunteering, but she also wants to make a career out of helping people. This semester, she will start classes at Purdue University Fort Wayne, and she’s debating between two majors: psychology, with the goal of becoming a counselor; and interpersonal and organizational communications, which would prepare her for a job in non-profit work.
“I really want to work with youth,” she says. “I like being able to walk along with (kids) through middle school and high school because (those) times are difficult and confusing.”
It’s clear that helping others is what drives Kayti, even though she has had difficulties with aspects of learning and socializing. She struggles with eye contact and social queues, needing extra help and one-on-one tutoring.
Since she was 8 or 9 years old, Kayti said her family has wondered if she has autism. As a child, she tested negative for Asperger syndrome, and she recently underwent testing again. She is still waiting for the results, but she’s confident they will show that she has a form of autism spectrum disorder.
Though the hallmarks of autism include a struggle to communicate, Kayti is drawn to helping others, and she struggled when her Ivy Tech classes were moved online due to the pandemic. Her graduation ceremony is scheduled for May, and she’s hopeful she’ll be able to celebrate her accomplishment in-person.