Kayla McKinney, 18, of Princeton, W.Va., a senior at McKinney Homeschool, has performed her own songs and shared her struggle with bullying at schools, after-school programs and community centers in numerous cities over the past three years, imparting messages of kindness, hope and empowerment to more than 25,000 young people. “In middle school, I was bullied, made fun of, and couldn’t understand why others didn’t like me,” said Kayla. “I started experiencing severe depression and anxiety.” But after a classmate took his own life because of bullying, Kayla wrote a song in his honor and discovered that music could help her heal from her own painful experiences and inspire others as well.
She was asked to perform her song at a convention for the state judicial system, and then began singing and playing guitar in front of young audiences. Soon after, Kayla and her mother founded “The One Voice Project,” which organizes anti-bullying concert tours featuring numerous young musicians. In addition to playing songs for their audiences, Kayla and her fellow performers share stories of their own personal struggles and how they overcame them. After their shows, they provide take-home “empowerment packages” to reinforce their messages. Kayla also has made videos and public service announcements to reach kids around the world, and wrote a song with her band that’s been heard by thousands at NASCAR events.