As a boy, Kyle Cornett pedaled up and down his street adjacent to West Fourth Avenue on a red bicycle he unwrapped Christmas morning.
Cornett couldn’t hear well enough to know if any vehicles were behind him, but he pedaled out the Christmas excitement all the same. Cornett never forgot the feeling or the bike, which collects dust in the garage behind their home. Once he reached high school, Cornett decided he wanted other less fortunate children to experience what he did that morning.
Cornett has donated at least one bicycle the last four years during Nickerson High School’s annual toy drive. The toys go to the Salvation Army and on to a family that needs it.
He never sees the Christmas morning smile on the child.
“As long as I make someone happy, that’s all that matters,” the 19-year-old said.
Cornett had ear infections starting before kindergarten. He’s had to wear hearing aids since then, which affected his speech. A yellow sign still stands in the front yard of his childhood home that states: “DEAF CHILD AREA.”
Cornett’s family struggled financially when he was young.
During Christmas, his parents couldn’t afford to fill to the bottom of the tree with presents — not even for their only child.
Cornett’s mother, Angel, said former South Hutchinson Elementary School Principal Midge Simmons told her that the school would have a bicycle for Cornett to open on Christmas. Angel thought it was through a school toy drive.
“I think they knew we were struggling that year,” Angel said.
Angel said she went back to school for her high school diploma. She’s been a CMA at The Arbors at Waldron Place for a couple of years.
“Life is so much better,” Angel said.
After school on Fridays, Cornett often goes up to see his mother at work and volunteer to help with bingo. But Cornett’s father, Jack Jenks, said the real ulterior motive there is free pie.
Cornett worked in the kitchen and as a CNA at the Good Samaritan Society in high school until his senior year.
He said he used the money earned to buy a bicycle for the toy drive and to put lunch money on student's accounts. Cornett also used his money to buy coffee for other students at the school library.
“He’s one of the most giving kids I know,” Library aid Nikki Barton said. “He loves to give to people.”
Angel saw Cornett's grades slipping and made him quit working after school toward the end of junior year. When the toy drive came around this year, school officials let Cornett hang a couple of posters around NHS.
He left collection cans at the front office and the library.
Cornett said the donations amounted to $75 when he checked the day before Black Friday. The next day, he walked around Walmart until the sale started.
Then, he bought a pink and red bike for the toy drive.
“He just has a good heart,” Angel said.
Cornett took extra classes as a senior to graduate early and with a 3.2 GPA. Dec. 19 was his last day.
RoAnn Mitzner, who worked all four years as Cornett’s Individualized Education Program coordinator, sent Cornett home with a certificate to commemorate the early graduation.
In the certificate, Mitzner wrote that Cornett was “my 1st student in 42 yrs.” to graduate early through the program for students with disabilities.
Cornett plans to attend Wichita State University in the fall and major in cybersecurity.