“Our teens and tweens are hurting,” says Kyla Goff. “They’re full of anxiety, stress, self-worth issues. It breaks my heart.”

Goff, a local photographer, holds workshops that focus on teaching children who they are before they grow up.

“We all have a motivational value system,” Goff says, “but few of us know what that is or how to use it to our benefit.” A certified strength development inventory facilitator, Goff has put into practice her own motivational value system, and says it changed her life.

“I’m so excited to implement what I’ve learned for a younger age group,” she says, “helping them navigate themselves while also learning about others.”

Goff’s photo images are powerful. A model walks along a sand dune while an incredibly long train swirls about her. Fighters go up against each other in Goff’s “rain room.” Even when shooting a cute child, Goff shows them conveying strength.

Kyla Goff owns a photography studio in Bakerview Square and also coaches tweens. Photo courtesy Kyla Goff Photography

Twelve-year-old Jaya is leaving the first of a two-day tween session with Goff and has been trying on dresses. Dresses? Yes, Goff combines her photography skills into her coaching. One minute, she and the girls are talking about knowing their love languages. (Jaya’s was affection, meaning she prefers hugs over gifts.) The next minute, they’re finding ways to feel pretty and strong. They will get photographs, as well.

Why does Goff focus on tween girls? Childhood is significant, she says. The confidence can be taken by others. She’s seen it.

Her own upbringing in those years of her life was “we moved a lot,” which meant about every six months. She made new friends wherever she went, felt confident even with her own physical flaw—a spacing issue in her teeth, which was eventually fixed.

Jaya, age 12, at her Aspire workshop led by Kyla Goff. Photo courtesy Kyla Goff Photography

“I adapt to change easily,” Goff says. Yet, she also chose to stay at her eastern Washington high school to graduate by staying with friends while her parents moved on. She started work as a teenager in fast food and moved into management by age 19. She was motivated.

As a photographer, she sees those who focus on weddings, maternity, and newborns. While she is happy to take on a diversity of clients, her focus is girls ages nine through 15. “They got left out.”

Jordyn, 14, is another attendee of Kyla Goff’s Aspire workshops. Photo courtesy Kyla Goff Photography

Goff builds rapport with them. They may not feel comfortable immediately—she knows this. “I want them to see themselves as beautiful.” Too often young voices tell each other they are “too fat,” or “too skinny.” These words get into peoples’ heads.

To get to this place, Goff has attended numerous photography workshops, as well as Dave Ramsey leadership training. She also added certifications for coaching and emotional intelligence cognitive behavior.

Rather than doing one-on-one sessions, Goff puts together workshops of small groups, so the girls can bond with each other.

Model Mak is pictured in the dunes near Las Vegas, Nevada. Goff made regular trips to the region to visit her father in his late years and developed her photography portfolio at the same time. Photo courtesy Kyla Goff Photography

“I plant seeds,” she says. It’s not just talking at them or even talking to them—it’s showing them. Goff has the girls stand back-to-back in the same room and explain what they see. While looking at the same things, they see things differently. They talk of their environments, their experiences, and the things that shape them. How do people deal with conflict? Some are leaders. Some are followers.

It’s okay to be different from each other. They explore something that’s part of their “core,” and comes easily to them, versus a “chore,” which is more difficult and can break confidence.

Kyla Goff’s rain room studio on Bakerview Road was installed in 2020 after she saw one in Las Vegas. For the most part, se uses it only in special occasions, such as with dancers and athletes. Photo courtesy Kyla Goff Photography

Goff recently celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary. She has grown children and grandchildren.

Before her photography and coaching, Goff owned coffee shops and a day care in eastern Washington, and then in Blaine after moving here in 1990. Her first foray into photography was landscapes; she sold her shots through Etsy.

Goff’s training for the transition to portrait photography included workshops in Atlanta, Denver, Nashville, and Las Vegas. She found a current portrait mentor during one of those trips who has been invaluable. She’s had her studio for the past three years. Two of those years it has been in Bellingham’s Bakerview Square.

Setting up the rain room and cleaning after shoots is a lot of work, but the end product is unforgettable. Photo courtesy Kyla Goff Photography

Goff first saw the rain room concept—envision massive amounts of water spraying everywhere like rain—in Vegas in early 2020. Whatcom County certainly didn’t have anything like it. With the help of her contractor husband, Goff’s rain room was built during COVID. Set up and cleaning after shoots is a lot of work, but the end product is unforgettable. She’s recruited dancers, athletes, and martial artists to use their skills in there—capturing their kicks, jumps, and twirls.

“Anyone can shoot [a picture],” she says. “But not everyone can edit.” She spends twice as long on her editing to make sure her subjects look their best.

Goff is currently signing up tweens for her Aspire Confidence Workshop. Visit tweencoach.com for more information. Goff is available for one-on-one coaching, as well.

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