One Harrison High School graduate plans to study a topic in college she hopes will help others the way it helped her: psychology.
Eighteen-year-old Kiara Roberto has been at the Kennesaw-area school for the last two years. She transferred there from McEachern High in Powder Springs after she was adopted by a Cobb family..
“I pretty much grew up around Cobb County, but have traveled a bit because before I was adopted, my mom had a bad habit of moving around from place to place, but this is my home and where I’m glad I came back to,” Roberto said.
The teen said she was born out of wedlock when her mother was 19 years old and still living with her mom’s parents.
“I never really knew a stable life,” she said. “My mother was kind of flighty, so she would leave me with my grandma and grandpa, who actually raised me. She would come in and out of our lives whenever it was most convenient for her.”
Roberto said for years she bottled up her anger because she loved her mother but did not understand why she couldn’t have a normal childhood like her school friends.
“That was kind of painful … growing up in a broken environment,” she said. Her grandparents continued to be her guardians, although not legally.
“My grandma died trying to get custody of me, and my mom just dumbly fought her tooth and nail,” Roberto said. “My mom’s not with the best of people, and we didn’t want to be in that environment, and my grandma didn’t want it. … That was pretty sad.”
In eighth grade, Roberto said she watched her grandmother die from the stress and heartbreak of the situation. “It was really traumatic,” she said. “Being so young, I never had CPR training, and I didn’t know what to do.
“I kind of carried around that guilt with me for a while. I kind of felt blessed or lucky, though, because she was there when I was born and I was there when she went to heaven.”
Roberto became her grandfather’s care giver for a few years after her grandmother’s death, and she bounced around from home to home after he moved to Massachusetts with relatives. She eventually found a loving family and home in the Kennesaw area.
Roberto said she learned quite a bit from the instability she experienced as a child, and since then has grabbed life by the horns, telling her story and participating in groups to help others.
“If my story can inspire someone, it’s worth telling it,” she said.
One of those organizations is Harrison High School’s Sources of Strength Club.
“It’s a national group whose main focus is to raise awareness of teen suicide and prevention. We work in that area, and we also help improve school spirit,” she said.
“I identified with this group and felt most empathetic with this group.”
She has been on the school’s swimming and diving team the last two years.
“If I didn’t have sports, I probably would have been in a lot of trouble,” Roberto said. “Water is my second home, and I feel very comfortable in water. … Swimming was just a natural extension of it.”
She and her sisters, who were adopted by her aunt, were introduced to the sport by family members while participating on a community swim team.
Roberto said she also finds joy in playing the violin and reading. She’s learning to crochet now because it’s something her grandmother loved to do.
“Do what makes you happy and get involved,” she said. “If you make the best of life, you’ll really enjoy it.”
Roberto will be graduating with her classmates on Saturday morning at Kennesaw State University, where she will be attending next year.
“Officially, I’m going in undeclared, but I may major in psychology and become a psychologist because I love helping people,” she said. “I want to help people the way people have helped me through my life.”