The people who make Palm Springs like no place else
It’s an understatement to say teens have had it hard during the pandemic. That’s the sense, at least, from Keona Corona, a senior at Palm Springs High School who serves as Associated Student Body (ASB) president and the school’s student representative to the Palm Springs Unified School District’s Board of Education.
The pandemic shut down life as she knew it partway through her sophomore year. She still had soccer, but classes and school life were relegated to Zoom. About half of her high school experience has so far been online.
“I got really sad, and I was in a dark place,” Keona said, acknowledging that she’s not open with her feelings. She found it hard to confide in others about what she was going through, and even struggled to muster the energy to log on to her online classes.
Still, she kept her grades high through sheer grit. “I had to constantly push myself and tell myself ‘I can do it. I can do it,’” she said.
Even though most of school has been virtual, she’s still heavily involved. In addition to being ASB president, she’s a talented soccer player, and last year she was the junior lead scorer and offensive MVP. She also plays guitar and is learning to play the violin.
Her skills on the field and in the classroom and her natural leadership ability made her the obvious choice for class president.
When asked why her classmates knew they had to pick her, Keona said, “I feel like I was showing my voice and people listen to me. I actually care about others and what they have to say. They know I have their back.”
This kind of maturity and self-awareness comes as no surprise to Dr. Jason Powell, the director of strings at PSHS and Keona’s guitar teacher. As soon as someone in class makes a rude comment to someone else, she’s not afraid to confront them, not aggressively, but in good faith. “She’ll jump up and take authority. She has a voice,” Powell said.
As the student representative to the Board of Education, Keona has to present in front of powerful decision-makers at meetings. Public speaking is a major hurdle, even for most adults. But Keona takes it in stride with the same determination she uses to tackle everything else in life.
As she looks to the future, she’s excited about life after high school and becoming the first person in her family to attend college. She’s already been accepted to eight schools, and is just waiting to hear back from a few others. Her goal is to go to the University of Oregon or UC Santa Cruz. After taking a summer coding class called “Girls Who Code” and meeting women who work for companies such as Riot Games, she was inspired to apply as a computer science major.
Her goal is to work in the gaming industry and one day produce video games like the ones that helped her stay connected and have fun during the pandemic.
Powell has confidence that Keona can accomplish whatever she sets her mind to. “She doesn’t want to be what she came from,” he said. “She’s doing everything in her power to break the chain, and she can do it.”
Keona says Dr. Powell helped her realize her full potential.
“People struggle,” she said, “and we can still make something of ourselves.”
Get to know Keona below.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Cathedral City
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN THE DESERT? I have lived in the desert all my life.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE? My grandma moved here when she was 17 years old. She wanted to be in a safer and better environment for her kids.
WHAT KEEPS YOU HERE? As of right now, the only thing keeping me here is that my family and friends are all here. Once I graduate high school and go to college, I see myself not coming back to the Coachella Valley as much.
DO YOU HAVE FAMILY HERE? Yes, almost all of my family is here. Some members of my family have just recently moved back to the desert and are now living with us. It was a big change for me, but I love them to death. I learn how to manage being with everyone I love.
DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY BY WHICH YOU LIVE? My soccer coach introduced this philosophy to me: “Pain is temporary, glory is forever.” For the last couple of months I have always told myself the saying before soccer games. It pushes me to be the best version of myself.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT? Thai Smile. I go there every once in a while. But when I do go, I eat like I have never eaten before. I have to unbutton my pants to breathe.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST ISSUE FACING OUR COMMUNITY? The increasing population of homeless people.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO OR PLACE TO GO IN THE DESERT? My favorite thing to do in the desert is being with my family or friends walking in Downtown Palm Springs. I love walking Downtown and going into the same shops. It never gets old to me.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE YEAR HERE? My favorite time of the year has to be when I start high school soccer, around December time. I have a love/hate relationship with the cold, but playing under the stadium lights just makes me feel whole. I have no other worries in the world.
WHAT’S YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE? Driving with my aunt and uncle Downtown looking at each of the houses. We are always mesmerized by the different styles, how they do their gardens, and what model of car they have in their driveway.
Know somebody we should feature in Palm Springs Profiles? Reach out to Kendall Balchan at [email protected]