Kyle-Kyson Clark (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)
Thanks to Hyundai and Taste of Soul 2018, Kyle-Kyson Clark is one step closer to becoming the “modern day Dr. Seuss.” The 26-year-old Florida native and children’s book author is the 2018 winner of the 2ndannual Hyundai and Taste of Soul giveaway. Clark was selected out of over 100 video submissions. The requirement was a short video clip of contestants telling Hyundai how they make LA a better place.
Clark makes LA better each day through his work in childhood development and education. With his brand-new Hyundai Kona, Clark can feel confident in his new ride, adding miles not only to his odometer, but to his journey towards actualizing his dreams.
In a city like LA, with its non-stop traffic and sometimes faulty public transportation, a chance to win a new car can sound too good to be true. Clark who is a self-proclaimed foodie first stumbled upon the contest while looking up some info on the Taste of Soul website.
“Of course, I was like, people don’t really win those contests so, I scrolled past it,” says Clark.
But after telling his mom about it, she convinced him to enter.
“She was like, ‘you better apply for that car!’” says Clark of his mom, a retired Miami deputy sheriff. She was the first person he called when he found out he won.
“She went silent for at least ten seconds,” says Clark who is known to be a jokester amongst his family.“She was like,‘stop playing with me!’ and then she started yelling.” Clark laughed as he recalled that moment with his mom who has been his biggest support since childhood, raising him and his brother as a single mom.
For Clark, the journey to this point has been an uphill path towards his passion of reading for children. As a young boy who struggled deeply with a speech impediment, he might have never thought he’d see his name printed on the cover of a book.
“Growing up was pretty rough for me,” says Clark.“I spent most of my childhood not speaking because I suffered from a bad case of stuttering and that prevented me from being able to communicate efficiently. I was embarrassed to speak because I couldn’t have words come out of my mouth.”
It wasn’t until his later years of high school that Clark decided to challenge himself and work on his speech.
“In high school, there’s a big pressure on you about what you’re going to do after school and what you’re going to major in, and I really wanted to challenge myself,” says Clark.
Before he graduated, he watched YouTube videos and did extensive research on how he could improve his stutter. After an entire childhood of working with speech therapists and getting pulled from class for extra help, Clark was ready to move on in life and overcome the embarrassment and frustration that can come with having a stutter. He crammed all summer after graduation, and with the help of his speech classes, he mastered the tools necessary to beat his stutter.
“I ended up picking broadcast journalism as my major because I just wanted to tackle this ‘weakness’ that I felt I had,” says Clark.
Clark, who was born and raised in Miramar, Florida, attended Florida A&M University (FAMU) and as a journalism major, developed goals of anchoring and reporting on screen. He interned with news stations, wrote for the newspaper, and hosted a radio show at FAMU. Clark also dabbled in acting and participated in stage plays, web series and student films on campus. After graduation, he moved to Miami, hoping to stay on-screen and start his professional career.
“I was thinking, I’m about to be one of the hottest radio personalities in Miami, Florida and life was like — Are you kidding me bro?” says Clark about his rough start in Miami, one the top 20 news markets in the U.S.
Clark couldn’t find work as a reporter. Feeling down on life and struggling with finances, he took up a job as a kindergarten teaching assistant, just to keep money in his pocket.
This is where his path towards becoming a children’s author unfolded.
“I literally fell in love with it,” says Clark.“At the end of the school year the principal told me that I did such a great job with the kids that she offered me a job as a first-grade teacher.”
After getting certified, and getting started in the classroom, Clark found a true passion for teaching. Yet, in the spirit of his on-screen aspirations, he still pursued acting part-time and began booking commercials and national ads.
“One day I was like, I love what I do, but I really feel like there’s more to life than me coming to work every day inside a classroom. I know I can touch these children’s lives, but I also know I can touch even more lives.”
“Back on my first day as a teacher, at an inner-city school — I’m not over-exaggerating — on the first day of school, only one kid out of 26 kids knew how to read,” says Clark.“In that same moment, that’s when I was like, okay, I really want to do something about this.”
At the end of the school year, Clark resigned and decided to move to LA with his earnings from commercials. A random job search landed him in a position to become a child behavior therapist, working one-on-one with children that are autistic and have special needs.
It was one particularly difficult classroom situation Clark witnessed that influenced his book.
“It was probably one of the most uncomfortable classrooms I’ve ever had to sit in. I just wrote my book in the back of the classroom.”
Clark felt the kids in the classroom weren’t receiving the proper motivation and he saw how much they gravitated towards his instruction and interaction.
“Anyone who works with kids knows you have to praise kids, you have to make them feel good. It is your job to educate, but it’s also your job to motivate as well,” Clark says.
“I wrote the book for kids but I also wrote the book coming from a place where I felt uncomfortable and unappreciated. I knew there was more.” Clark finished his book last year and has been sharing it with friends, family and kids around Los Angeles ever since.
Clark’s book, titled “Yes!You Will Be Great!” is a rhythmic and inspirational read that even teens and adults can relate to.
The colorful book, illustrated by Gerrell M. Brown, is reminiscent of the Dr. Seuss best-seller “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” — a classic children’s book that resonates the ultimate message of following your dreams and never giving up in the midst of hardships along the journey.
“That book was probably one of my biggest inspirations, when it came to writing my book,” he says.
Clark is already receiving good feedback from his supporters. He plans to officially release the book this month.
For Clark, winning the new Hyundai will help him upgrade his twenty-year-old, two-door Firebird that is in bad condition. He says his car makes it hard to be a mentor and work with kids.
“Parents have to feel that their children will be safe in the car I pull up in,” says Clark.
Bakewell Media’s Taste of Soul will join Hyundai at the LA Auto Show
this week to hand over the keys to Clark’s brand-new 2018 Kona.
“I feel like I’m dreaming still,” he says.
Down the line, Clark wants to animate a children’s series and do voice acting for his characters.“I really want to use my voice that I didn’t get a chance to when I was a child,” he says.“In the future, I see myself as the modern-day Dr. Seuss.”