Strength and determination lead UM student to consider Air Force career


Conner Owens
Oxford Stories

When Kayle Barnett was in kindergarten, a small, schoolyard bully approached her on the playground to pick a fight and steal her red crayon.

Furious, she pounced on the bully to get the crayon and her dignity back.

When her father came to pick her up later, she told him the story. He laughed and said, “That’s my girl.”

You can still find that strength and determination in Barnett, 18, today. The University of Mississippi freshman is considering a career as a U.S. Air Force pilot, because she’d like to see the world.

The Memphis native moved to Southaven when she was 2, so her father could continue his career as a local firefighter.

Her mom opened up one of Oxford’s top tanning places, Sunsation, and she is also the founder of Beachfit fitness, a 24-hour facility.

At age 3, Barnett contracted pneumonia and was rushed to Lebonheur Children’s Hospital. She quickly recovered within a month with the help of many doctors. Amazingly, she has never had to go back to the doctor, not even for the flu or a broken arm. 

She attended elementary school at Desoto Central, and her fondest memory was going to the Memphis airway with her father to watch as the Blue Angels’ flight crew dance across the night sky.

When Barnett started high school at Desoto Central, she was a softball prodigy who worked hard on and off the field. She attended high school with a goal of earning a biology degree from UM so she could become an orthopedic surgeon. Now that she has completed the first half of her freshman semester, she’s interested in becoming a U.S. Air Force pilot.

“It just seems so nice to be that free and experience everything the world has to offer,” she said, “and to explore the other cultures of the world instead of staying put in one place all my life.”

Barnett’s first job was working at her mother’s tanning salon, Sunsation. This quickly taught her how difficult the real world can be.

“I remember seeing one of the other people there just taking tanning supplies from the store,” she said. “At first, I didn’t think that anything was wrong, because they were close to the family, yet as it continued, I got more and more uncomfortable with it, and knew something was wrong, so I told my mother who had to fire them for theft.”

Barnett said she hopes to impact people’s lives, and she sees herself as a silent leader through her actions.

Her friend, Lauren Kinman, 18, said Barnett is an understanding person.

“She is really good at consoling and easy to relate to your struggles, no matter what they are,” she said. “Kayle would do anything to help anyone in need, even if she had never met them before.”


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