Rooted in Service: Ball State Grad Student Shares Her Volunteer Story

Dec 22, 2023 | by Major Curtiss Hartley

Kayla Myers could be doing a lot of things on a Wednesday night – like studying for classes or getting some rest before rising at 5:30 a.m. to go to work and then school. Maybe going on a date, or to a movie with friends, or maybe even doing her Christmas shopping. Instead, she’s ringing a bell, in the cold, in front of a local retail store. She’s wearing a Santa hat with her tiara tucked into the white fur, a satin sash across her coat, and cheerfully greeting shoppers.

Myers is a volunteer bell ringer at The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle in Muncie. She holds the title of Miss Northeast, the first rung in the Miss America organization. This is her second shift at the Red Kettles this season. She’s articulate, full of energy, and focused on making a positive difference in the world.

“I have been ringing bells actually since my senior year of high school, so probably about 5 years now,” Myers said. “I’ve always been in a family very rooted in service.” She went on to explain that this is one reason why she competes at the local level of the Miss America organization; she joined for the opportunity to serve people.

“I think it comes from a little bit of humble beginnings; not everyone has the basic needs. Part of my service initiative through Miss America is hashtag choose health (#choosehealth),” Myers continued. “The foundation of health is having your basic needs met. That’s ultimately my goal and I feel like it aligns well with The Salvation Army.”

Myers grew up in a small town near Philadelphia and did her undergraduate work at Temple University. She chose Ball State University, “which is such an incredible college for my master’s program,” she explained. “I came out here and I love it.”

Myers will graduate in the spring of 2024 with a dual master’s degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She’s already accepted a counseling position after graduation at Still Waters Professional Counseling.

“I’m just trying to give back to the community as far as mental health and physical health,” she said. Growing up, Myers struggled with mental health issues, which is what steered her to the field of study.

“It led me to become physically sick because I was so mentally sick,” she said. “What got me out of that was moving my body as well as talking to a counselor. I realized I could pair these two beautifully together through exercise science with my undergrad degree in nutrition and a psychology minor.” With her graduate studies, she added, “It's a beautiful holistic approach between nutrition, physical activity, and mental health because we need all three to really flourish as a person.”

Myers’ ambition is to win the Indiana state title, and then compete for Miss America. Using those platforms and her education, her goal is to continue working in the mental health field to help people flourish.

Myers said ringing bells at the Red Kettle is cold work, but she’s warmed by putting a smile on someone’s face while she’s ringing. “I show up with my fun hat and earrings, and I’m smiling at them, spreading some joy,” she said. “Typically, people get so caught up in their lives, so it's nice for those moments of joy, and hearing stories about other people I meet who’ve also rung the bells.”

She calls it her version of a random act of kindness and service. “It’s something that’s completely free for us to do. It just takes a little bit of time, just volunteering one hour of your day, two hours, three hours. I can really change someone’s day with the money raised, but also just the people you see with a smile on your face, and interacting with others. I highly recommend this experience at least once, and it’s worth all the smiles you get.”

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