For some, answering the question of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ requires a lifetime of exploration and self-discovery. For others, it comes easily, almost instantaneously, from an early age.  

Michaela falls into the latter category. 

“I saw Legally Blonde as a kid, and I turned to my mom and said, ‘I'm going to do that,’” she said. “Then, when I really did sit back as a teenager and not a five-year old who wanted to be Elle Woods, I thought about which profession could have the most impact on somebody, while also aligned with what I enjoyed.” 

And that profession was a lawyer.  

Looking back now, Michaela recognizes that part of her motivation to pursue law stems from her family’s experience with attorneys in the aftermath of her father’s work-related accident. While working at an insurance company, he suffered a fall that required extensive back surgery. When the surgery did not yield results as promised, Michaela’s father was prescribed opioids for pain management. This led to a severe decline in his quality of life and, ultimately, his death. Michaela was only 4 years old. 

While some viewed her father’s death with skepticism and judgment, the attorney working on his case saw the situation differently. “The attorney was the one person who really cared about my parents and wanted to help us,” Michaela recalled. “It was the first time I felt like somebody paid attention. It inspired me.”

Though Michaela excelled all throughout grade school and high school, she wasn’t certain college was a possibility for her due to her family’s financial difficulties. “I had straight A’s and I knew I could go to college, but I didn't know how, and that was the scarier part.”

Thankfully, fate intervened when Kids’ Chance of Pennsylvania (KCPA) Board Member Marla Joseph was given Michaela’s file from the attorney who handled her father’s case. Marla reached out directly to Michaela’s mother. 

“Kids' Chance found me. I didn't find them,” Michaela remarked. “And I think that's the greatest part of the whole thing.”

One initial meeting at Starbucks between Marla and Michaela turned into a mentorship and friendship that lasted all throughout Michaela’s undergraduate studies — and still exists today. Through Kids’ Chance, Michaela not only found the funding to pursue her educational goals, but also a feeling of belonging she’d never experienced before. “I felt understood for the first time in my whole life. I felt at home.”  

Today, as a Kids’ Chance Ambassador, Michaela strives to raise awareness and connect with other kids who have experienced similar hardships. “Kids' Chance has changed my life by not only introducing me to an entire community of people who wanted to see me succeed and helping me get through college, but also by giving me the opportunity to see some light in the darkness of losing my dad. Now I've been put into a position to do that for somebody else.”