While most 9-year-olds might have been wishing for a new bike or hoping to have a play date with their next-door neighbor, Kye Masino was dreaming up revolutionary change. This change came in the form of his service organization, KYE-YAC, based out of Hot Springs, Arkansas, led by youth for the benefit of youth. Now, at age 18, Kye has not taken a moment of pause, as he takes his seat on the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council for the third year in a row. Over those years he has probably lost count of all of his Roots & Shoots campaigns given how many he has organized — he experienced first hand how easy it is to turn any cause into a Roots & Shoots project. Anyone can find their way to the Roots & Shoots website to start a page for their project and have access to a network of young people just like themselves with great insight on service work. We caught up with Kye to uncover the details about his path to service and learn more about what drives his passion.
Name: Kye Masino
Favorite “Lazy Day” Activity: Kye loves to curl up with his favorite Sci-fi book, Call of Cthulhu, or with one of his many animals, like his snake, Confucius.
Q: What is your favorite Roots & Shoots project that you’ve worked on?
Kye: One of my favorite projects of all time might have to be one we did recently working with elderly people in the hospice ward of Arkansas Hospice. I gave 12 and 13-year-old campers at the Arkansas YMCA free reign to pick a focus for a service project. The most touching part was that these kids could have chosen any project, and they chose such a heavy one to conquer; that to me showed great maturity. The campers spent a few weeks designing handmade boxes full of crafts, treasures and cards, and personally delivered them to the patients, which was incredibly touching for everyone. Interestingly, what a lot of people don’t understand is that there are quite a few kids that go through hospice. They also have grief programs for kids that have lost a relative through hospice, so it is definitely an area where young people need our help.
Q: What has been one of your failures that has taught you something valuable?
Kye: One of my most embarrassing moments was my first public speaking engagement as a middle schooler when I was asked to be the keynote speaker at a high school assembly. It was a complete disaster, that’s the only way I could describe it. But because of that, I learned to be prepared for everything I do in life and to know what I am talking about so I never run into that circumstance again.
Q: What inspires you to be an activist? How did you get started in this work?
Kye: Growing up here in Arkansas, we have various issues, whether it’s being at the top of the list for poverty, childhood hunger, or flawed education systems. For me, that was a call to action. I got started at a young age doing service work with my grandparents. I distinctly remember being 5 years old, driving by the neighborhood school all the time, and seeing the school children playing in the yard. I noticed that the yard was completely empty, it had no toys at all. It made my 5 year old heart sink and I asked my mom if I could go read to the children. And that was how it began. I also am of course inspired by Dr. Jane and her incredible sense of drive. I share her belief that kids are the hope for the future; that is really the mission of my organization.
Q: What advice do you have for other young people who want to get involved in their communities or make a difference for the world?
Kye: Something that I wish I had realized when I started KYE-YAC is that, despite what people tell you, being young can really HELP you. Especially in fundraising, when you are a young person, it is going to make it a lot harder for someone to just flat out say no to your cause.
Q: January was National Mentoring Month, did you work on something in particular?
Kye: Actually mentoring has really been at the forefront of a lot of our events recently since we have been partnering with the Mid America Science Museum to promote STEM mentoring projects. Every 3rd Saturday, KYE-YAC members go to the tinkering studio to work with kids on various STEM projects. You see the light bulbs go off in their heads when they realize, ”Oh I can do anything I want with this.” Also, with the harsh weather conditions of January, we’ve organized a “Winterfest” with the museum to offer a wide range of cold-themed activities for kids to participate in like playing with liquid nitrogen and dry ice. To enter into the event, kids can choose to either donate a winter clothing item, or take one that they may need.
Kye is a shining example of how to start a vision from the very root and continue nurturing its growth. To learn more about compassionate young leaders like Kye, check out the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC). Educators and Roots & Shoots groups, you can invite Kye or another member of the NYLC to visit or Skype with your classroom/group to talk about their Roots & Shoots work and share tips for your next service campaign! Click here to learn more.