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Love, Fear, and Courage: Choices that Lead to a Future of Radical Optimism with Kiarra Danielle Lucas (Episode #156)

If you had any doubt about the next generation coming up in colleges today, Kiarra Danielle Lucas will fill you with confidence in Gen Z. Today we all get a new perspective on how children can practice a kind of radical optimism, in the worst circumstances, and use it to build remarkable futures for themselves and others. Kiarra is an 18-year-old inspiration for anyone who thinks their circumstances limit their potential and her vision for the future might be just the spark you need to find exactly what you are built to contribute.

Episode Highlight

About Our Guest:

Kiarra is a remarkably inspiring freshman at Champlain College in Burlington Vermont, who I met on a park bench during the lunch break of an Innovation Conference (The marvelous Synaptic Supercollider event) on sparkling fall day on the shores of Lake Champlain. 

She grew up in one of the most challenging situations most of us might imagine, and yet she is one of the most positive people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. And in her presence, her positive attitude feels like a superpower.

Part of Kiarra’s commitment and her big idea to change the future for others (which we will celebrate in great detail in the interview) comes from the fact that her father had been incarcerated when she was only 4 years old, and tragically became the victim of gun violence shortly after his release when Kiarra was 14. 

But true to her astounding mindset of squeezing every molecule of potential out of setbacks, change, and opportunities, Kiarra was motivated by that part of her life experience to start cultivating a plan to help incarcerated people transition back into—and contribute to—society, in new ways. 

In our brief exchange on that park bench outside the innovation event, I was blown away by her curiosity and savvy. And when we started chatting about her story, I was inspired to create this article and interview because of her courage and determination to never miss an opportunity to grow and improve. 

Dozens of students were offered a free ticket to this conference—a full day of talks and interaction with social entrepreneurs and tech experts—but Kiarra was among only a tiny handful that took advantage of the opportunity to show up.  

More about her story: Kiarra grew up in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the Washington D.C. metro area. She is the only child of a hardworking single mother, and day to day, Kiarra seems to have harnessed some inner grit and perceptivity to make the right moves. By paying close attention to her choices, and by putting one foot in front of another since middle school, she has escaped the violence and hopelessness in her community and its schools. 

And most importantly, she is committed to applying her good fortune to help those places once she finishes her education.  

One of the first important opportunities that Kiarra did not let go unnoticed came along when she was in the 7th grade: she learned about a chance to win a scholarship to attend a boarding high school outside D.C., where kids had far more opportunity and safety. She worked extremely hard, finished middle school with excellence, and she won!

Her story unfolds almost miraculously from there. And most importantly for us… she has an inspiring  message about how nurturing a positive worldview, no matter your circumstances, can change the future. 

In our conversation today, Kiarra imparts a raft of observations and wisdom well beyond her years on topics like love, fear, optimism, personal growth, and how we find what we are uniquely built to contribute. 

And as we recorded, I had goosebumps several times from this feeling that I was talking to someone almost “other-worldly,” someone who is filled with a kind of astonishing grace, insight, wonder and compassion for others, that is rarely attainable in even one long lifetime, much less a brief and sometimes struggle-filled 18 years. 

If you had any concerns at all about the next generation coming up, this and a few upcoming episodes of the Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast will fill you with confidence and joy. 

Over and over, I meet young social innovators with big ideas and even bigger reservoirs of commitment to playing their role in making the world a better place. And I have complete confidence in their ability to pull that off in millions of ways we cannot possibly imagine. 

ENJOY this remarkable young woman’s perspective. And at the end of the interview, I’ll give you an opportunity to connect with her and support her journey.


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