The Fight for Reading: WCFL 21 Semifinalist Kayla Hracho

In an exclusive interview with MMA Today, Kayla Hracho discussed her upcoming WCFL 21 fight, as well as her goals to bring awareness to community development organizations in her hometown.

After losing a controversial split decision to Cara Greenwell (6-4) in the World Class Fight League quarterfinals, amateur prospect Kayla Hracho (5-1) has been invited back to face Carmen Milagros (4-1) on Saturday, June 2nd at WCFL 21. Hracho was afforded the opportunity for redemption after another competitor was unable to continue in the tournament. In her initial fight against Greenwell, both women put on such an incredible performance that the WCFL felt Hracho was the best candidate to bring back into the competition.

“At first I was hesitant to take it,” Hracho explained. “How am I going to lose and still get another chance, that doesn’t seem fair. At the same time, I personally think I won the fight. A lot of people were saying that fight easily could have been the final for the tournament. A lot of people thought we looked like the two most skilled girls in there. It just made sense to give me that chance, and I wasn’t going to argue with that. If they were going to give me a second chance to prove myself, then I was going to come back and show them exactly why I belong.”

Hracho is highly anticipating the challenges her opponent could bring to their upcoming fight. She has been working closely with UFC Flyweight prospect Gillian Robertson (5-2), who possesses strong grappling skills that were put on display in her recent victory over former Cage Warriors champion Molly McCann (7-2).

“Carmen is a southpaw wrestler and shes about 4′ 11″,” Hracho explained. “A lot of people know I’ve only been in MMA for about a year and a half so they may think a wrestler poses a lot of challenges for a striker like me. I’m working extremely hard every single day in the gym to improve. My main training partner for this fight was Gillian Robertson. She went to Liverpool, fought the hometown girl, a former CW champion and she absolutely dominated her. So I’ve been working with an extremely high-level wrestler and extremely high-level Jiu-Jitsu girl and I feel extremely confident.”

Not only is Hracho fighting this weekend, but she is also commemorating her 27th birthday. She decided to celebrate by fundraising for the Children’s Home of Reading, a nonprofit organization in her hometown.

“For my birthday this year, I’m asking for donations to Children’s Home of Reading. I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you’ll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me. Every little bit will help me reach my goal.”

Hracho has an interest in utilizing her platform to raise awareness and bring attention to community development programs in her hometown. Additionally, she has two years of hands-on experience working as a classroom assistant and the head crisis interventionist for Kids Peace, which is another organization she would like to bring more attention to. In her role at Kids Peace, she served as the primary source for emergency response within the whole facility.

“They have partial hospitalization programs and they provide therapeutic environments for kids ages 6-18 that suffer from mental and behavioural disorders,” Hracho explained. “These programs combine academics with mental health treatment to help the students adequately function in public schools and their communities. Most of these kids were kicked out of public school and the goal is to get them back in school and really living it as normal of a life as possible.”

She has a unique view of the community she was supporting, which is what helped her make an impact on the children and youth she was working with. 

“I felt like I was really able to make a difference,” she recounted. “I didn’t look at them as kids with disabilities, I looked at them as just kids who needed a helping hand. Who needed someone to talk to someone to understand someone to listen and someone to just accept them for who they are. Someone they can trust to just help them get better and help see the good in them.”

Hracho has strong beliefs as to why this kind of work means so much to her, and why she wants to take action and be more involved with these organizations. Poverty has been a known issue in Reading and in 2010 the city had the highest share of citizens living in destitution in the nation.

“I believe kids are the future, and the city of Reading really needs help,” she continued. “Many of these kids have such great potential, they have huge hearts, really brilliant minds, but so many of them are stuck in poverty and broken homes with no help for a brighter future. They really just need a safe and loving environment in order to flourish. Without that, it’s just nearly impossible for them to learn and grow.”

Through the kind of programs that CHOR and Kids Peace can offer, Hracho believes that there is hope for at-risk youth. At one point in her life, she also found herself in a hard place. She only needed the support from a trusted mentor and it made a difference in her life that she is benefiting from today.

“They need dedicated people who they trust, they have to be encouraged to be involved in social, recreational, and other therapeutic activities to allow them to enhance their interpersonal skills and develop positive relationships that they need to be set up for success,” she explained. I’ve seen it myself. I was once a kid who was broken and lost. I didn’t come from a broken home but I suffered from some similar issues that these kids do. I had one person that believed in me and encouraged me. I found something I was passionate about which was boxing. It saved my life. That one person who gave me a chance and was willing to help and listen, helped me to change my life. I just want to be able to use the small platform that I have now to help these kids find what lights up their life and help give them tools and inspiration to go after it and never look back.”

Ironically, Hracho originally had no intention of working with kids. She developed her interest in working with children and youth from a Summer internship she accepted after she graduated from college where she studied Clinical Psychology.

“I actually didn’t really like kids,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t relate to them. I felt like I wasn’t really good with them. Then I got this internship and it was a great opportunity so I jumped on it. It was at a summer camp for kids with mental and behavioural disorders. It was a unique opportunity because the internship was for a whole summer, we stayed in cabins with the kids. It was just a life-changing experience for me, that’s what really made me realize I love kids. I felt like if I can make a difference when they’re younger. They have more time to really change their life around, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Hracho has also gained some inspiration from UFC Lightweight Dustin Poirier who recently launched his own nonprofit organization The Good Fight Foundation.

“Dustin actually inspired me a little bit to go after this type of work,” she explained. “Obviously he’s in a really good position where he has the ability to give back a little bit more and that’s really my goal for the future. To be more hands-on in the process and really be able to dedicate my time to going to these programs and having fundraisers to raise money or help with the programs. As of right now I just want to give it as much attention as possible and let them know that I’m here to help.”

That’s not all. Fellow teammate Will Brooks also worked with the 14All41 nonprofit organization to go to the Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym and bring donated equipment for the athletes. Hracho heard about this and jumped at the opportunity to help.

“I actually reached out to one of my sponsors, Society Nine, and they donated a huge box of brand new gloves,” Hracho said. “It’s just little stuff like that you know. Any way I can help I want to and I want to be involved, but more specifically for my hometown just because I know how much they need help and I know that the littlest bit can go a long way too.”

Ultimately her goal is to support and bring more awareness to the organizations and programs in her hometown. She has already started building relationships with local agencies such as Children’s Home of Reading.

Jill B. Troutman, the Vice President of Advancement, Marketing, and Communications, has been in talks with Hracho about future ambassador and partnership ideas. The CHOR serves over 1300 children and their families every year through 15 different programs. They specialize in working with individuals who have experienced trauma and live with various mental health and behavioural disorders. 

“We are thrilled to have Kayla choose to celebrate her birthday wither her fans and The Children’s Home of Reading,” Troutman said of Hracho. “Her understanding and passion for helping kids and raising awareness for mental health and foster care is truly a gift. She and I discussed one of our greatest needs other than donations; that being for foster care families.  It takes an average of 3 years to recruit a foster care family. The need for families especially for sibling groups and adolescents in foster care is at a critical point throughout our nation.  Through celebrating her birthday so selflessly, Kayla has now elevated the awareness of The Children’s Home of Reading, mental health and foster care family crisis across the nation.

We wish Kayla a “Happy Birthday,” good luck with her fight,  and thank her for paying it forward. She truly is a great ambassador for The Children’s Home of Reading.”

Hracho has overcome many obstacles in her past that have brought her to where she is today. She has found motivation through her struggles and intends to keep pushing forward and give support and attention to those in need.

“Fighting gave me purpose but it gave me a purpose to better myself and my life in order to have the ability to give back. Helping in these type of programs is my true purpose. I feel like fighting will give me the platform in order to do that. I’m fighting for more than myself. I want to fight for my city, I want to be as successful as possible so I have the ability to give back and on my roughest days in the gym, those are the types of things I’m thinking about.”

 

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