Front Line Fashionista: Kiana Kenmotsu

By Gloria Kosir, Feature's Editor

Walking down the runway halls at Advocate Lutheran General, Holy Family, and Glenbrook Hospitals, doctors, nurses and other workers are sporting masks made by West’s very own senior Kiana Kenmotsu. Kenmotsu recently won a $250 grant from the Power of Youth Challenge: COVID-19 Response Grants ran by America’s Promise Alliance for her inspiring work.

America’s Promise Alliance created the Power of Youth Challenge to motivate and reward youth from the ages of 13 to 18 for outstanding work that they’re doing to help their communities safely combat the coronavirus. Kenmotsu’s fashion teacher, Mrs. Kline, informed her of the grant and Kenmotsu ended up applying.

“I filled out the application and in it I wrote about the importance that these masks have to me. A couple weeks went by and I hadn’t heard anything until one day I received an email from them saying ‘Congratulations!’ This was very exciting and has now enabled me to make more masks than I ever imagined. The people at America’s Promise Alliance have been so wonderful and helpful throughout this whole process,” Kenmotsu said.

“I am so inspired by all of the front line workers risking their lives to save others, I knew I wanted to do something to help. I turned to my favorite hobby, sewing, and made it into my passion project,” Kenmotsu wrote in her application. Kenmotsu’s character really shined throughout her project, and the drive behind it makes her journey even more admirable.

“I was moved by all the hard work and dedication first responders were putting in. However, things quickly changed after one phone call. A friend of our’s was diagnosed with COVID-19 and two days before he was planning on being released he passed away. It was that rude awakening that this virus is real and is taking lives. I wanted to do what I could to contribute and help my community fight against this awful pandemic so I started sewing masks to go over N95 respirators so first responders could reuse them.  Then I started sewing headbands with buttons and 3 layered masks for essential workers,” Kenmotsu said. So far, she’s made over 120 masks out of her 200-mask goal.

Kenmotsu has been taking fashion courses since her sophomore year, when she took Fashion 1. She finished Fashion 1 and 2, and will now be taking Fashion Studio under the instruction of Mrs. Kline for the third year in a row.

“Kiana is one of the kindest and hardest working students that I have.  She is very creative and wants to use her fashion skills to help others.  Kiana is extremely helpful and I am so proud that she won this grant.  She will be able to use her skills to help keep others safe and fashionable too,” Kline said. Kenmotsu learned tons in Mrs. Kline’s class. “[Mrs. Kline] continues to be a wealth of knowledge as she has taught me more than I could have ever imagined everyday,” Kenmotsu said.

Kenmotsu’s friends are also very proud of her kind and considerate actions.

“Kiana is the most thoughtful and compassionate person. She’s always thinking of others, so it’s not surprising to see her doing something to give back to the community. She’s also a super talented seamstress, and her masks will definitely remind front line health care workers they are valued and supported,” senior Sydney Schroeder said.

“I would not be able to do any of this without the help and support from Mrs.Kline and the Fine Arts Department. I feel so lucky and blessed to have this opportunity!” Kenmotsu said.