Lithia Springs High School senior Kai Hartman, named the Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year in February, gave the keynote address Tuesday during the Douglas County Chamber GreyStone Power Luncheon at the Douglasville Conference Center.

She talked about defining success for yourself, realizing that everyone’s path to their individual success is not the same — and that the journey to success and accomplishment can be hard.

Hartman said she found herself looking back at all the advice and motivation given to her at the lowest of times this year as she approaches graduation.

“The words I seem to remember most were given to me by my mentor,” Hartman said. “She said, ‘Success has no definition, always remember to define it for yourself.’ The words hit me, because you see we grow up thinking success is defined by acceptance into Ivy League schools, our bank account, the size of our house. But now I ask myself if it’s deeper than all of that. What about those things truly make us happy?”

In February, Hartman was accepted into Howard University where she plans to major in television, film writing and media studies, but she received some criticisms about her choice of where to attend college.

“I’ve gotten a lot of insults about me choosing to attend Howard University this fall, instead of actually trying to attend a more ‘prestigious’ school in the eyes of America,” she said. “But Howard was my goal, my number one choice, and since I have achieved it, in my eyes I am successful no matter what.”

Hartman admitted the past year had been a hard one — a year of being rejected, wait-listed and denied in every aspect of her life.

“But what matters most was that I continued to keep faith and I knew eventually my path would clear if I had continued to believe in my potential and being confident in all of my hard work,” she said.

An 11-year member of the Boys & Girls Club, Hartman leads a cheerleading program for the Douglas County club’s younger members.

She is enrolled in the STEM Magnet program at Lithia Springs High School, where she’s part of the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) and the yearbook staff.

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