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Walled Lake Consolidated Schools

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Kayleigh Karinen (Northern '13)

Kayleigh Karinen (Northern '13)

Kayleigh Karinen is a 2013 graduate of Walled Lake Northern HS. Outside of the classroom, she participated in Spanish Club and was a NHS member. Additionally, she was a club level athlete in cheerleading who practiced at the elite level in Chicago many weekends.

Her studies continued at Oklahoma State University where she majored in Spanish Philology and graduated in 2018. Her involvement in sports is what ultimately steered her to a degree in a foreign language which led her abroad and enabled her to impact young people as a coach, as well as establish lifelong connections across culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

She studied abroad in Spain, Chile, and ultimately landed in Finland. She is currently finishing her Master’s Degree in Linguistic Diversity at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Additionally, she has a specialization in sports entrepreneurship from Kisakallio in Finland. In all of these places, she got involved with cheerleading both as an athlete and coach.

Kayleigh is currently involved in a project that looks at Finnishness in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that she and Professor Kathryn Remlinger hope to get published in an academic journal. Her research interests are within the realm of sociolinguistics and her Master’s thesis accesses the role of sports in language revitalization with Basque language in the Basque Country as a case study.

Kayleigh has continued to train and compete in cheerleading and is a four-time world champion athlete with the Finnish National Team in 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022.

She currently has her own cheerleading company that brings her across the globe to coach. Her most recent success as a coach includes working with the World Champion Austrian National Team in 2022.

Kayleigh Karinen with her cheer medals and rings

Outside of cheerleading, Kayleigh aspires to obtain a doctoral degree in Linguistics.  She also loves to go rock climbing, cycling and hiking. She enjoys coffee and will find herself searching out the best local coffee shops wherever she goes to read the newspaper in the morning.

Kayleigh never imagined that signing up for the cheerleading team as a child would eventually open the doors to higher education, foreign studies, and an international sports community. She said: “Cheerleading unexpectedly became the catalyst that set me off on a path to new opportunities, including becoming a four-time world champion athlete with Finland, the nation of my heritage. Most importantly, joining a sports team gave me a supportive community, one I found to be inclusive and inspiring. Sports provide an environment for people to come together to reach a common goal regardless of their history, linguistic background, and gender identity.”

While reflecting on her education in Walled Lake Schools, Kayleigh added “I was fortunate to have had some influential teachers at Walled Lake Northern such as Ms. Savone (Spanish) and Ms. Payne (Chemistry). These two stand out but honestly, each teacher had something different to teach and bring to the table and not simply scholastically.”

Kayleigh’s advice to students is to get involved in high school and beyond in things that you feel add value to your life. Don’t be afraid to do an exchange year or learn other languages.