Moffat County Locals: No hurdle too big for Kia Counts, a single mother with passion, drive
December 25, 2017
A vision of a better life for her and her daughters is what drives single mother Kia Counts to climb the daily mountain of work, raising three girls — while homeschooling her youngest in the process — and completing her master's degree.
But her aim is clear: to teach by example to her girls, ages 10, 15 and 16, what is possible with enough commitment, determination and fortitude.
"I don't want my girls thinking that they have to be a statistic. I feel like the odds are already stacked against them: minority, low income, single-parent household," Counts said. "I want them to realize that those don't define who they are! I never want them to settle."
A Craig resident for nearly 20 years, Counts is formidable in her drive. Inspired by the trials of her younger sister, who has Down syndrome, Counts returned to school to earn a master's degree in special education after completing her bachelor's degree in psychology.
"The doctor's actually gave her until she was 5 to live; they really didn't give her good odds," Counts said of her sister. "She's had two heart surgeries and has been in cardiac arrest twice, all before she was 6 months old. She's been through so much, and now, she's getting ready to turn 21 and graduate high school in May. She's come so far. She's my inspiration and my hero."
Counts will complete her degree this spring and is in her third year as an ESS, or exceptional student services, paraprofessional at GOAL Academy, where she works closely with children with special needs.
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"I've seen the struggles my mom has had with special education," she said. "I've seen both sides of it, and I really want to help, I really want to make a difference."
Last year, Counts also completed Bridges Out of Poverty's Getting Ahead program, administered by Moffat County United Way. The program has been a key resource to support her in achieving and maintaining self-sufficiency, she said.
"I've been at the low-income, poverty level my whole life," Counts said. "Doing that program has given me confidence, just in myself, so I know how to manage my money. … I may still be living paycheck to paycheck, but it's not quite as much of a struggle."
Counts and Getting Ahead program administrator Kristen Vigil met when they both worked at GOAL.
"Kia is someone in our community who is doing a lot of good things and has been really determined," Vigil said. "She also helps (kids) understand she hasn't always been at the perfect place, and she can show them it is possible to have something different. I feel like she is the epitome of someone who has had to work herself up and had to push herself through. … She really wants to give her children the best life they can have.”
Even in the midst of her commitments and ambitions, Counts also finds time for her passions outside work. Years ago, she took a photography class through Colorado Northwestern Community College that solidified her love of the form.
"I have a passion for abandoned pieces of history and ghost towns, so I take a lot of pictures of abandoned buildings and old cars, along with portraits," she said.
Years later, former CNCC photography instructor Yuri Chicovsky recalls her unique aptitude.
"She's singular and one-of-a-kind, for sure," Chicovsky said. "She's a treasure because of her talent and her kind heart … and she's got the same grit that the region embodies."