Kyla Kerstetter: Good deeds personified
If it’s true that actions speak louder than words, Kyla Kerstetter goes through life screaming at the top of her lungs.
Kerstetter, a 5-11 senior guard on the William & Mary women’s basketball team, was recently nominated for the Allstate Good Works team, an announcement made by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).
Fifty-four Division I players were nominated, only one other from the Colonial Athletic Association. A five-member team of student-athletes from Division I will be announced in February.
“We are very proud of the work Kyla puts in on the court, in the classroom and in the community,” Coach Ed Swanson said. “She has received recognition in all three facets locally, and we are glad to see her accomplishments noticed on a national level.”
The “s” at the end of “works” is appropriate when referring to Kerstetter. She isn’t involved in just one good deed, but in a cluster of them.
She’s worked with Habitat for Humanity. She’s volunteered at a local hospital, working with patients fresh from knee or hip-replacement surgery. She is a volunteer with Williamsburg ARC, which works with adults with intellectual disabilities.
“The women’s basketball team has been doing things with them for a while,” she said. “Every year we do a basketball clinic, which is very popular. Every time I pass one of them they’re like, ‘Can’t wait for the next clinic!’”
For the third year in a row, she is mentoring a group of high school girls at the Williamsburg Community Chapel, leading them in Bible and life lessons.
“Some of them don’t have big brothers or big sisters to go to. I always had a big sister, and we sort of serve as that,” she said. “Nothing’s more satisfying than when they call you and say, ‘Let’s get lunch,’, or when they come to you with a problem they don’t know what to do with.”
But it was her work, albeit short, with “High Hopes” back in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, last summer that left the most lasting impression.
Daily for a month, she saw children in need of physical therapy for a variety of reasons, from those who were developmentally delayed to children with cancer, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.
“The experience was closer to what I want to do with pediatrics,” said Kerstetter, a kinesiology and health science major who already has been accepted into the University of Delaware’s doctoral program in physical therapy. “I was able to see a lot of conditions that plague children who already need physical therapy, to learn more about that, and to see the patient interaction with the therapist.”
One child, in particular, touched Kerstetter’s heart. The girl, about age 6 or 7, had undergone cancer surgery and was taking chemotherapy. The combination had caused her to lose much of her coordination.
“She was having to relearn things like reaching and writing her name, things she’d already mastered, but had to completely relearn because of the neurological effects of the surgery and the treatment,” Kerstetter said. “That was really interesting to me because it was more of a serious hospital-type condition, and the seriousness of it really intrigued me.”
The obvious question for Kerstetter, who has come back from an early-season knee injury and is averaging 6.3 points and 2.3 rebounds a game, is how does she do it? What magic does she weave to fit in academics? She took 17 credit hours this semester, which she called “tough,” and has won Provost Awards the last two years for carrying a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
“I’ve been so used to being busy all of my life that I enjoy going from one thing to the next,” she said. “I like to fill my schedule. I like to find the time for all of the stuff in my life, and you have to prioritize. Sometimes it’s basketball, sometimes it’s school first, and sometimes my extracurricular activities are first. I don’t know. I make time for the things I think are important.”
Swanson recently called Kerstetter “a great ambassador for our program.”
The compliment caught her by surprise, she said.
“I really haven’t been aware of that, but it’s nice to read and to realize that you’ve been noticed,” she said. “What’s important to me is having a good relationship within the community and in the halls and around campus.”
It seems that's happening, one good deed at a time.