Kai Tinsley

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

high school: GW Carver Engineering & Science HS

college: Columbia University

MAJOR: Computer Science

Kai was born in Philadelphia, PA and has lived there for most of his life. While he spent much of his childhood free time inside reading, playing his drums, drawing, writing, or building with LEGO blocks, he also enjoyed playing outside. He and his friends could often be seen building things, playing tag or football, and riding bikes. Outside, however, presented its own challenges; he had to learn how to handle himself around moving cars, barking dogs, and other boys who wanted to mess with him, all while looking out for his younger siblings. Through this, he began to develop a sense of independence.

School, however, presented another circumstance. As his school work became more challenging, he placed himself under more pressure to maintain high grades. He slowly moved away from playing outside and engaging with his friends, and wrapped himself in a limiting shell of absolute perfectionism.

By the grace of God, however, Kai’s high school experience would help him redefine what he saw as success. After suffering an injury that ended his athletic career, he joined the robotics club after school. He was eventually elected president, but soon became frustrated, with managing a laundry list of goals, financial problems, and limited resources. He and his teammates were often discouraged when they would put much time and effort into a project, only to see their competitors oppose them with more members, more resources, and more money.

Through this, Kai was forced to see he and his friends’ efforts as more than just a means to an end. Their dedication was worth more than a simple medal or trophy, and the experience of working together as a team had helped them grow in more ways than they could imagine. Once he began to see it as his duty to help empower the members he served, he began to see the club transform into a place that was challenging but fun, intellectual but meaningful, financially limited but innovative.

In addition to robotics, Kai has been involved in his school’s National Honor Society chapter and Student Ambassadors group, both of which make it a point to serve the school community. He also helps teach children how to code at a local after school program, assists in maintaining his church’s land and facilities, and volunteers as an usher and musician on Sundays. In spite of the busyness of the past few years, his family and friends have remained central to helping remind him of his values, gifts, and imperfections.

Now that he is about to attend college, Kai wants to take what he learned in high school to the next level. He is exposed every day to many of the harsh realities faced by those living in urban environments, but he has also seen much of the beauty that comes with it. He wants to live to address these issues while also remembering the positives, looking for the small ways through which he can work to make an impact.

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