Kiyaira Stiggers is not your typical student-athlete. Yes, she is a full-time student at Lakeland and yes, she is a member of the women's basketball team. However, what she does in her "spare time" is cause for recognition. After graduating from Kenmore High School in Akron, Kiyaira enlisted in the Army National Guard. At the time, she wasn't sure about playing basketball and she was concerned about having a large debt from attending college. Kiyaira has many family members that have served in the Army and finally, one of her close friends introduced her to a recruiter. Once that happened, she was "in".
From high school, she went to Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. She recalls the biggest challenge for her was repelling down a 40 foot wall. "It was very high and very intimidating – especially since I'm only 5'3!", she says with a smile. Stiggers graduated from Basic training on Feb 7, 2019 and then went to job training to be a supply specialist until April 8, 2019. Since that time, she completed her monthly obligations and worked until another friend talked to her about Lakeland and the basketball team. She met Coach Gardenhire and liked what she heard and saw at Lakeland – again she was "in".
At Lakeland, she experiences the typical student issues – balancing of assignments, tests, practices, and games. She does have the additional stress of training one weekend per month for the service. This has caused her to miss some practices and possibly some upcoming games. It also forces her to really manage her time as she has to complete assignments ahead of time knowing that she will not be able to complete coursework on those weekends. Kiyaira states, "The most difficult thing is balancing everything. It can be very stressful and it forces me to really think about and be good at time management. I really need to communicate well with my instructors, coaches, and team so that we are all on the same page about what needs to be done and when."
Speaking of planning, Kiyaira already has her next two summers planned. This coming summer, she will work and participate in Army training for three weeks. The following summer will entail a four week training session. After that, there is a possibility of deployment. Keeping in mind what is going on in the world today, Stiggers states, "I'm a little nervous about possible deployment. However, I know that the training we receive is excellent and that I will be prepared. Since I know how prepared we'll be, it makes me less nervous about the future". With preparedness in mind, I asked her if she had any thoughts or suggestions for others thinking about the service and Kiyaira was adamant in that she felt it was a great decision for her. She also feels it would be good for many others because of the skills that one learns and it affords the opportunity of going to college without going into debt. She continues, "It's very doable. My advice to others would be not to let fear hold you back from doing this or anything. Don't give up."
When asked how she feels about Lakeland, the team, and Veteran's Day, Kiyaira replies," I really enjoy Lakeland. I like Coach Gardenhire and the team. This is my favorite team that I have ever been on. We're very close. Veteran's Day is interesting. Personally, I do not like receiving a lot of attention. However, I feel it is definitely a good thing to honor veterans – especially those that have served, fought, or died for their country."
On this day, we honor E3 PFC Kiyaira Stiggers, and all those who have served our country.