20-year-old Awa Kaday Doumbia has always had a passion for dancing, marketing, and putting her creative foot forward. Born and raised as a New Yorker in Staten Island, Awa comes from a West African background, having family from Sierra Leone and Mali. After receiving her acceptance to the Fashion Institute of Technology, she knew it was the perfect fit for her to pursue her dreams and has been exploring many opportunities.
Since the start of Awa’s college career, she has worked with major companies such as Allure Magazine and Revlon Cosmetics, participating in many different modeling projects. Awa is currently an International Trade and Marketing student, the president of the Black Student Union, and a dance instructor here at FIT.
“Life was good for a split second but sometimes good things don’t last,” said Kaday.
This past summer, on July 26th to be exact, Awa faced a near-death experience, completely changing her life forever. Awa was waiting by the train tracks of the Fulton Street subway station, and then the next thing she knew, she woke up in an ambulance. Awa was told that she fainted from heat exhaustion and fell onto the train tracks. She was just-barely saved as an oncoming express train was only 3 minutes away.
“After the accident, I discovered that I had a fractured skull, lost hearing in my left ear from impact, and suffered from severe brain injuries,” said Kaday. “About a week later, after all the swelling went down I also discovered that a portion of my face was paralyzed.” Awa had just turned 20 on July 8th, and on July 26th, she had nearly lost her life. Fortunately, a good bystander was able to grab Awa off the tracks.
The recovery process after the accident wasn’t easy for her, and she is still learning how to cope with what happened. “I went from being able to wake up every day and chase my dreams, to being on bed rest and unable to hear,” said Kaday. ”I truly felt like I was at my lowest and saw no light at the end of the tunnel.”
Once Awa started gaining her strength back, she started looking at her life from a different perspective. “After having a panic attack while driving one day, post-accident, and almost crashing my car, I knew I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and better my mindset,” said Kaday. “When I realized that things could have been worse, I had to humble myself. I woke up from a brain injury when sometimes, people don’t. I had to understand that I had a purpose and that it was only going up from here.” Awa started constantly setting reminders of affirmation on her phone while journaling her thoughts to get through her days, which she finds to be extremely therapeutic.
“I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Accepting that this wasn’t the journey I chose but that it chose me, made me realize I now have the ability to uplift and inspire others going through something similar,” said Kaday.
Throughout her entire experience, she had also realized that the person she ended up turning to the most was herself. “I am my biggest motivator,” said Kaday. “I got myself out of the hole I was in, discovered how strong I am as a person, and made myself realize that losing my hearing made me gain knowledge and wisdom that I will forever be grateful for.” If there is one message that Awa believes she can take with her after her experience, it is to truly live. She is a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that living life to the fullest is the greatest gift anyone can give themselves.
Awa continues to recover and has started teaching dance classes again at FIT, ready to be here and celebrate life. She is still not sure what it means to be Awa Kaday but she is on the journey to figure it out.