Senior Student Bridges Gap Between Modern World and Ancestral Traditions
By Amy Morgan
Ronald Reagan Senior Student Kai Roybal represents the best of two worlds. On one hand, he’s a Gen Z teen applying to highly competitive schools like Stanford University to study computer science and engineering. On the other, he’s part of the Native American Piro Manso Tiwa tribe located in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Kai feels the weight of belonging to the bridge generation that brings his heritage forward into the modern world. His grandfather’s family members were born in a traditional adobe homes, “a stark contrast to how I live in suburban Stone Oak,” he said. Kai balances his school commitments with attending tribal ceremonies in New Mexico. His college choice reflects his desire to connect with likeminded others also navigating the gap. Stanford holds an annual pow-wow for its strong student Native American community that’s open to the public. Kai remembers attending when he lived in California as a child. The college also sponsors a retreat for its Native American students to unite those with similar backgrounds.
Kai learned to swim as a child growing up in Palo Alto. He moved to Stone Oak in third grade and joined the competitive Alamo Area Aquatics Association swimming club. Kai continues to swim year-round with the club, whose championship meets start after the Rattler swimming season finishes. Kai’s a breast-stroke sprinter, swimming the 100 and 200 yards as well as performing the stroke in the medley relay. At February’s Regionals he placed 10th in the 100-yard race and helped the medley relay achieve an 8th place medal, propelling RHS to a 5th place finish. His times have already landed him a spot in the South Texas Champs and Southern Zone Sectional meets in the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke events. While swimming may seem an individual sport, Kai enjoys the team aspect of competing for Reagan. “The 4 x 100 freestyle relay is at the end of the meet, and the energy is really exciting,” he said. “The team members are all up on deck cheering.”
Not surprisingly, the technology enthusiast mentions his favorite Reagan class was Computer Science with Mr. Arteaga. Kai enjoyed coding the game Connect 4 in Java.
Kai serves as treasurer of Reagan’s National Honor Society. His service project is to supervise the Book Buddies project, where he helps sort donated books for children in underprivileged school districts. He also is part of Mu Alpha Theta, the Math Honor Society. He also is part of DECA, Reagan’s, Business and Marketing Club. Last year he competed in the Role Play Scenario in the Principles of Finance category. He was one of six chosen to advance to state. He noted he joined DECA to get outside his STEM comfort zone and challenge himself.
Kai hopes to be a role model for his 12-year-old brother, Tyler, and three-year-old half-sister, Natalie. At Stanford, he’ll lead the way toward a bright future, without forgetting the grounding traditions of his tribe.