The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


More Than Enough

A lot of people think they know senior Kristina Keys, but they don’t
Senior Kristina Keys hugs her mom Dec. 4 in Room 151. (Finn Bedell)

Whether they love or hate her, most upperclassmen have heard of senior Kristina Keys. They’ve heard her infamous jokes throughout her friend groups. They’ve witnessed her animated and fiery remarks. Something about Keys just sticks with people. She’s hard to miss and even harder to forget. 

People know her, at least they think they do.

When Keys was born, her world looked different. Most people don’t know she’s Russian. Where the streets are cold and the tundra is prominent, Russia is notorious for human rights abuses. She doesn’t know much about her birth parents, only left with small bits of information. But she does know how everything ended.

“I was in the orphanage for about a year,” Kristina said. “My birth mom passed away and my aunt left me there. I have siblings in Russia I can never meet now, and I’m basically the person in my family lineage.”

Typically, children are neglected, given inaccurate diagnoses and stigmatized. Keys lived in Tula, Russia. She was about two years old when she was adopted, meaning she was saved before any major abuse took place.


Patrica Keys had a long road ahead of her. She decided to adopt out of the country, from Russia. Through an adoption agency, Keys started the process of adopting from an orphanage.

“She went through the process and got interviewed,” Kristina said. “Then my mom got to pick between a couple of us. The lady who chose all of us was from the state and worked at the orphanage, so she knew us personally. That really helped too.” When she arrived at her new home, it was a total shift. It took a while for her to come out of her shell, usually staying close to her mom.  Suddenly, her world was expanded a lot more, now she had siblings and a whole family to be around. They aren’t exactly ordinary, their family is quite blended.

“I was definitely glued to my mom,” Kristina said. “But I was always close with my brother Caleb and sister Emily growing up. I had short hair when I came to America, so my sister actually thought I was a boy. I had this bowl cut, and my sister kept saying ‘she’s a boy, she’s a boy’”.

Growing up, Kristina always had enough. She had hot food on the table, a good school to learn from and a cozy bed to come home to. Some kids don’t have that, and she’s grateful that she’s fortunate enough to have what she needs. If she hadn’t been adopted, her future could’ve been very different.

“I’m very to be adopted out of Russia,” Kristina said. “You get kicked out of the orphanages at 17 if you don’t get adopted and then you just work on the streets. So my mom honestly saved me.”

Being adopted doesn’t usually make life easy. It affects everything, from medical history to relationships with the people around her. No insight on allergies, family history, or really anything. She takes extra steps to make sure she is healthy and in a good headspace, but for her, it’s worth it.

“I struggle with my identity,” Kristina said. “Not having any blood relatives is a little crazy to think about. But my adopted mom is my best friend, and she always says that she practically birthed me because of all the paperwork.”

Kristina and her mom have a special relationship, they’re each other’s best friend. Other houses are full of conflict and negativity, but hers isn’t. Her mom just loves her, being with and there for her. Like when she managed six kids on a $13,000 salary, definitely not playtime, but she did it anyway. She does have an adoptive and stepdad, but they don’t have custody of her. To Kristina, the connections between people are what it means to be family.

“I never got a good side of my adopted dad growing up,” Kristina said. “But ultimately the younger years, when I first got adopted, they were really good. He didn’t really pay attention to me, and it was fine. Looking back at the pictures, I don’t feel like a needle’s poking me in the heart. I don’t even touch my other baby books, they’re too painful to look at. It hurts.”

Her identity is something Kristina thinks about a lot. She doesn’t have a lot of other people to compare herself to, so she can feel isolated from people around her.

“It’s crazy to think I’m not related to anybody,” Kristina said “That’s what I struggle with now, not having blood relatives. But we were always a blended family and when I came along, they already had two other adopted sisters so they didn’t treat me differently.”

Kristina’s life looks different than most of her friends, but she’s learned it’s ok to be a little different. Instead of something to hide, she sees her story as something to expose people to. It gave Kristina her mom, and they push the boundaries of being a blood or adoptive family member.

Kristina always thought she had enough. But snuggled on the couch in matching pjs, watching Beat Bobby Flay, she decided that her mom wasn’t just enough, she was everything.


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About the Contributor
Hiya! My name is Izak Zeller and I'm a Writer and the Social Media Manager for the Northwest Passage. I am a sophomore this year and this is my first year on staff. I joined the newspaper because I want to break down complicated, interesting topics into material that the average reader can understand. Outside of newspaper, I am involved in Student Council and the NW Acapella Choir. I am also working to become fluent in German. I spend a lot of my time sleeping and snuggling with my two dogs. I’m super excited to begin working for the NW Passage!

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