Kalina Francois was born and raised in the Bay Area. She grew up in Oakland California and moved to Castro Valley California at the age of nine. Her childhood involved moving from a gentrified neighborhood in the Oakland Hills to a predominately white and Asian community. Being a black girl in such a setting was quite difficult for Kalina because it seemed that she never really had a space to call her own which made her feel out of place. Was she too loud? Why did her hair not grow like her peers? Why are all the white kids getting students of the year, and her and her Black friends not?  She felt so different than everyone else and felt she was treated inferior to her peers. However, through experience and expansion of knowledge, she is an intelligent, beautiful, Black Woman. She can and will do anything she puts her mind to and knows she matters. Kalina is now currently eighteen years old and is a freshman psychology major and sociology minor on the pre-law track at Spelman College.

In the beginning of 2021, Kalina was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Kalina’s family life has been through many mental and physical health challenges, however still working to overcome generational trauma that arises. She has a mother, a lupus patient who takes care of a family of seven has also been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Her sister, a nineteen-year-old sophomore at UC Berkeley who was diagnosed with major depressive bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. She attempted suicide at the beginning of 2020. Kalina’s adopted sister is an eleven-year-old Filipino girl with severe spastic cerebral palsy. Her cousins who her family is fostering, has PTSD from their history of going home-to-home within the foster care system. Kalina prayed and tended to the needs of her family by aiding them in their journeys to self-love. Her philosophy is, “We are all far from perfect, but with love and respect for ourselves and one another, we can overcome any challenges headed our way.”

Kalina learned to overcome her mental health issues with therapy, medication, and realizing what her stress and anxiety stems from. She also found what things bring her ease: socializing, watching inspirational bloggers, gaining self-confidence and respect, and connecting with her faith. She felt that her setbacks made her a stronger and wiser woman. Her setbacks taught her how to handle certain situations.  Kalina explains that; “Helping my mom take care of my siblings and worrying about the mental state and well-being of my loved ones while focusing on my own life caused me great stress. However, I learned how to be there for others while learning how to not neglect myself.”

She was successful in overcoming her struggles with stress, panic, and anxiety because she managed to graduate high school, attend college, grow her faith, and help others while not neglecting her mental health. She learned how to help others and do what she loves while also giving her the time to think about her own growth. According to Kalina, “When you can establish such love and respect for yourself, you are able to establish a level of well-being that radiates onto others.”