When Kayla Foster was killed on Monday, she became the victim of the very crime she had been helping fight against since she was 10, said her grandmother Cheryl Sumler.
Described as having an infectious smile and always willing to help anyone in need, the 18-year-old was set to graduate from Central High School in two weeks, and had plans to enroll in the nursing program at Fresno City College.
She was also a youth ambassador for the Take a Stand Committee since she was 10, said Sumler. Co-founded in 2010 by Sumler and her sister, the committee aims to curb violence in southwest Fresno. Foster spent her time helping organize the yearly events the committee sponsored.
Foster had recently gone to Central’s prom with her twin brother, Kobe Foster. Sumler said she can tell Kobe is hurting.
“When she got shot, he probably felt it,” Sumler said. “That’s how close they are.”
Her father Aaron Foster called Kayla “vibrant and full of life.”
“She was the one we let use the car because we knew she wasn’t going to drink and drive,” he recalled. “We would let the younger kids go with her, because she was responsible.”
It’s just tragic that somebody with so much promise was caught in something she didn’t need to be caught in.
Mark Sutton, Central Unified superintendent
Foster said more police could have helped his daughter on Monday. “It’s very discouraging,” he said. “We need more police presence.” Both he and Sumler said if Take A Stand had more funding, the shooting may not have happened.
This is not the first time the Fosters have lost a family member to gun violence. In 2013, Kayla Foster’s older brother Aaron Foster III was shot in the head in southwest Fresno.
Sumler said she can’t put into words how it feels to run the Take a Stand Committee and have two grandchildren taken from her due to violence.
“I’m numb; I’m speechless,” said Sumler. “I knew we weren’t exempt to crime. This is what I deal with on a daily basis, and now it’s my granddaughter.” Kayla Foster’s death has made her question if she should still keep the committee running. “But if I stop, who is going to keep these events going?”
Foster’s aunt, Cecilia Thomas, said Foster was strong and confident. “You could see her heart smiling,” she said.
Foster took classes at both the east and west campuses of Central High School, said Central Unified Superintendent Mark Sutton. He described her as driven and a role model. “She had seen a lot of growth in the past couple of years ... preparing her for Fresno City College and the nursing program,” he said.
For now, there are crisis counselors on both campuses, and Sutton is planning to reach out to Foster’s family to possibly honor her during graduation.
“It’s just tragic that somebody with so much promise was caught in something she didn’t need to be caught in,” he said.