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Kayla Miller – This Is Family

Following is the text of 2006 Scholar Kayla Miller’s address at the Byrnes Scholars 54th annual luncheon, June 10, 2017.

Hello everyone.

I’m a 2006 Scholar, and I was asked to speak to you today. I am incredibly honored but also terrified, so please bear with me. Just a quick background on me, I’m from Easley, South Carolina. I went to USC for undergrad. I graduated and went to work as a Deputy Sheriff for Richland County. A few years later, I went to law school, graduated, and am now a practicing attorney.

My hope today is twofold. First, I want to welcome the freshman Scholars into our family, and then I want to let the graduating senior Scholars know why I have come back as an alumni these past seven years. I will keep my story brief.

We are all here because we lost someone. I lost my mother my senior year of high school, but one of the more frustrating parts for me was having a living parent that was neither supportive nor involved in my life. So I decided this vacancy in my life was his loss, and I have developed my family through other bonds, but especially through this Foundation. So Freshman and Seniors: listen up!

Say hello to my handsome boyfriend, Trey. He’s a 2010 Scholar. We’ve been friends for seven years and have dated the last two. This was pretty awkward for my law school friends, though; my girlfriends and I ran into him downtown one day, and I introduced him as my brother. Well, we started dating not terribly long after that, so introducing him as my boyfriend the next time they met him got me a few raised eyebrows and questions. Through Trey, I know and love his dad, HL, who is always a phone call away and has always made me feel a part of their family.

Ms. Kristine, a 1989 Scholar, who has wiped away countless tears and been the mama bear that I still so desperately need. Her husband, Mr. Bill, a patient father figure, who showers me with affection and protection like a good dad should. The Hobbs boys, Luke and Will, who sit with me at dinner time so I have the full effect of a family dinner and always put up with my eccentric behavior and looks, while also trying to positively reinforce my more “normal looks”.

April, a 1999 Scholar, and Natalie, a 1986 Scholar, who are my best friends, despite the wide range of ages. Girls’ nights and my life would not be the same without you both. The first time I met them was at my very first Super Weekend. I went on a cruise for spring break that year and was told my dorm would be open when I returned. So I packed a bag for my cruise, and then packed a separate bag for Super Weekend and left it in my room. Well, when I got back, the dorms were definitely NOT open. And there was no way to get into my room. So, I went down to Super Weekend with a suitcase of bathing suits and evening gowns. I didn’t have towels or warm clothes or bedding. April and Natalie were in the dorms so I asked them if they had anything they could spare. They kindly asked what I needed, I said everything, and we all laughed until they realized I was dead serious. But they clothed me and provided me towels and bedding that entire weekend. Now, they always pack extras of just about everything. And we’ve been friends ever since.

Mama Lucy, an honorary Scholar and Natalie’s momma, who I will be eternally grateful for feeding me and telling me countless nursery rhymes.

Dee, a 1978 Scholar, who helped me get my wisdom teeth removed when I couldn’t go through my dad’s insurance. He constantly showers me with pride and affection. I can’t talk about Dee long without getting teary-eyed. He is the type of man I wish my father could be. He and his wife, Ruthie, have taken me and my sweet puppy into their home numerous times, and I know they are two people I can always rely on.

Ty, a 2004 Scholar, who would always thoughtfully check on me and play the big brother role while we were in undergrad at USC. His wife Ever, who shares my side eye, and always gives me appropriate responses to various situations. They have such a special place in my heart ,and they blessed me with the privilege to be the godmother to Ethan, their beautiful child.

Jenn, a 2009 Scholar. I feel like we grew up together and most certainly have grown as friends. We’ve shared laughs, tears, food, and had multiple sleepovers throughout the years. The give and take of our relationship is exactly what family is all about.

Faith, a 2008 Scholar, who is an amazing friend and even better listener. She offers such a sweet balance to my life. I am truly in awe of you. You guys wouldn’t believe the strength and courage she possesses.

Carrie, a 1992 Scholar who I have an incredible kinship and sisterhood with. We speak on the phone several times a week and have as many coffee dates as we can manage. Her husband, Kevin, and the Pergerson kids open their home to me on a regular basis. They entrust me with their kids, and I’m not sure there’s a better compliment than that.

Tyler, a 2004 Scholar, who is still an inspiration to me and gets my use of emojis. I’m so glad I had you and Ty to look up to while I was a student.

Kara, a 2010 Scholar, a friend, and an old roommate, who is probably the kindest, most genuine person I know, although she is severely accident prone. I am so thankful for our friendship that was cemented mostly by us complaining about work and school.

Ms. Pam, a 1984 Scholar, who shares my love of emotion, especially the teary-eyed variety. She and her husband, Mr. Dennis, have opened their home to me on more than one occasion and have always reached out to share a tradition or note with me during a time of celebration or need.

Laron, a 2010 Scholar. Thank you for sharing my love for my animals and food. Trey, Laron, and I were roommates last year, and I certainly miss our nightly family dinners. We would eat good food while watching other good food on TV.

Chad, a 2012 Scholar. We’ve shared countless meals under the Hobbs’ roof, along with many tales and stories under my own roof. And for those of you who don’t know, or maybe I was the only one who didn’t know, he is really handy with cars. Thank you for teaching me that awkward lesson.

Ben, Taylor, Tianna, my scholarship-year class, and so many others that were in the other classes I came up with. I see and talk to a lot of them regularly and have developed bonds that will last a lifetime.

To my baby Scholars, Allyson, Lauren, and Alex. Thank you for letting me dote on y’all and be the bossy big sister.

I could go on for hours talking about the people I love in this room, but no one wants to sit here for that long. So I hope I conveyed just a little of what I feel.

To our freshman, welcome. Welcome to the family. There will be moments when you give and take like all healthy relationships should. I encourage you to reach out, ask questions, or ask for help. That’s how all this started for me. I have needed things over the years and they have always been provided to me, I can only hope that I can continue this great legacy.

And seniors, this is also why I keep coming back. Because I have received so much love and support over the years, I need to come back in the hopes of paying it forward. THIS IS FAMILY. I don’t know who, if any of you, will need me over the years, but I am here when that time comes.

I will close and say Trey and I are in the Columbia area. If anyone needs good company or a place to crash, please do not hesitate to ask. Much love to everyone in this room, and a sincere thank you for all of you who are such an important part of my life. I would not be the person I am today without you all.

2024 Application Process Closed

The application process for 2024 is closed. Scholarship announcements will be posted to the website in early June. The application for 2025 will be available December 2024. Please check back then.

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In return for their generosity and support, Mom and Pop Byrnes asked only two things from us: become the very best people we could become in life, and make sure their legacy of family continues for those who come after us.

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