ORANGE PARK – One Ridgeview High sophomore works daily for her very own nonprofit to ensure families in Clay County unable to pay for food have something to eat on their dinner table.
When Kenyatta Hogan, 16, was younger, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. While she had a job, the chemotherapy made it difficult to work. Periodically unable to pay for food, the family searched for help around Clay County but found themselves often turned away.
“They would turn us away and turn us down because my mom still had a job,” Hogan said. “And, it’s like, yes, she does have a job, but she can’t always work because of the cancer treatments.”
When Hogan’s mother went into remission, Hogan told her mom how she felt about the way their hungry family often was turned away.
“There’s probably people out there with the same problem getting turned away just because they have a job, even if they’re not able to work,” Hogan said. “My mom said, ‘what are you going to do about this?’”
Hogan immediately began brainstorming with her older sister, Shakwan, to come up with a solution to that problem. That’s how Hogan’s nonprofit, now 6 years old, was born. Called SKOA Inc., which stands for Shakwan and Kenyatta Open Arms, this 501c3 nonprofit serves Clay County to help the homeless and people in situations like the Hogans years ago go to sleep with food in their stomachs.
“Nobody should go to sleep hungry,” Hogan said.
When SKOA Inc. was started in 2013, Hogan was just 10 years old. While most 10-year-olds could likely be found on a playground with other kids, Hogan could likely be found brainstorming the next move for SKOA Inc. with her older sister.
“I’ve just always been the type of person to see someone in need and want to help,” Hogan said, explaining why SKOA Inc. was something she wanted to do at such a young age. “I want to bring out the best in people. I want to make them smile and have a good time. I just want to help everyone I can.”
Now, six years later, SKOA Inc. can be found every other Sunday at the Orange Park Farmer’s Market, hosting food drives throughout the year and for the first time ever, this year, handing out Thanksgiving baskets for families in need during the holidays. Usually, the non-profit crew consists of Hogan, her mother, her stepfather and her sister, but throughout the year, her closest friends will volunteer as well.
Because of her connection with Ridgeview – she participates in wrestling, track, football, concert band and marching band – SKOA Inc. also serves as a hub for community service hours for other Ridgeview students looking to volunteer.
When Hogan isn’t at school or participating in her many extracurricular activities, she can likely be found doing something for Girl Scouts, for SKOA Inc. or working with her mom.
“I wake up at 5 a.m. most days and usually don’t get home until 10-11 p.m.,” Hogan said.
When Hogan graduates in two years, she hopes to continue her nonprofit’s expansion into Clay County. She sees the 501c3 offering not only food provision services like it does right now, but babysitting, tutoring and other community outreach services as well. While she’d like to see the nonprofit grow and grow, she plans to split her time between SKOA Inc. and her career pursuit. Hogan hopes to be a TV producer and author.
According to Hogan, the woman who helped inspire her to start SKOA Inc., her mother, is proud of what she’s done for the community.
“She tells me often that she’s really proud of me,” Hogan said. “I don’t see it as a really big thing sometimes, though. There’s so much more I want to do, but I’m so young and only have so many resources so I just feel like I’m simply doing what I can. My mom is always telling me I’m too humble.”
Despite the strain of her extensive schedule which includes her work for SKOA Inc., Hogan said she wouldn’t change a thing.
“Sure, it can be overwhelming and a lot to keep up with, but I’m happy with what [SKOA Inc.] is able to do here,” Hogan said. “I love doing it and wouldn’t trade it for the world.”