Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 36

Fountain
of Youth
A.T. THRU-HIKER BRINGS THE SPIRIT

Kayla Carter is a role model for recruiting young people to outdoor pursuits.
By NANCY HENDERSON

ABOVE: Noah Naseri and
Kayla Carter pause at the
Virginia/Tennessee line during
their Appalachian Trail hike.
TOP: Carter's musical pursuits
have moved from mandolin to
ukulele.
ABOVE RIGHT: Angela
Alley, of JumpTN in Greeneville,
Tennessee, ensures a successful
first tandem skydive experience
for Kayla Carter.

36

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

A

few years ago, when Kayla
Carter was coordinating public
relations for the Elizabethton
(Tennessee) City Schools, she
received a letter from a little
girl whom she'd featured in a
press release for the local media
outlets. "Thanks for making me famous
for a day," wrote the child, who was from
a low-income family. "It was really cool
to see my picture in the paper."
"And I just cried because I remember
the first time that had happened to me,"
says Carter, 29, explaining how a newspaper reporter had interviewed her after she,
the only pre-teen girl in a Big Wheel race
at the Kingsport Motor Speedway, beat all
the boys. "I was like, 'That is the coolest
job ever. How do I get that job?' I had the
article posted up on my wall at home for a
little while. But that little girl sending me
that letter reminded me of that moment
in my life."
In the newly created role of outdoor
development manager at the Northeast
Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership in Johnson City, Carter now develops
programs and builds relationships with
community partners. She is also an avid
outdoorswoman who helps maintain the
Appalachian Trail and inspires other Millennials to do the same.
It was her father, a glass plant supervisor who found solace in nature, who instilled in her "a sense of wonder about the
outdoors, the woods and playing outside,"

she recalls. "He would always take me to
Bays Mountain in Kingsport. We would
hike around there and go up to the Fire
Tower, ride our bikes or hang out with
the wolves [at the animal sanctuary]. We
would go out to Steele Creek Park in Bristol to go kayaking."
From her dad, who loved to draw and
write, she also inherited her artistic side.
When she was very young, her mom
bought her a diary and she began jotting
down poems and stories. "I remember always yelling into the living room when I
was writing, 'Mom, how do you spell this
word?'" Carter says.
So it wasn't far-fetched that she chose
to major in journalism at East Tennessee
State University. Her minor, however, was
a bit more offbeat.
"To be totally honest, I was failing
French, which was my original minor. I
wanted to move to the French-speaking
part of Canada and be a reporter there,"
Carter says. "But I had a really good advisor who told me that that was probably
never going to happen."
Deciding she'd be a magazine music
critic instead, she switched her minor to
bluegrass and took up the mandolin "to
get a taste of what it's like to be in a band."
But after graduation in 2011, she opted to
stay close to home, landing her first job
as a general assignment reporter at The
Erwin Record before moving on to writing and page design posts at several other
small newspapers in East Tennessee. The


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018

Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - 4
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Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2018 - Cover4
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