LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – On April 22, one young Arkansas girl began her Saturday with plans to celebrate her birthday, but in a turn of events, those plans were cut short after a fatal accident.
19-year-old Nakhiyah Freeman is described as a bubbly beacon of light that was deemed too soon.
Kirstie Kelly, Assistant Director of the Miss Teen Tours organization said Freeman always kept an upbeat attitude about life.
“She came in positive, smiling, and extremely ready to work,” Kelly said. “Our main four things are culture, character, service and education and she embodied all of those things.”
When her pageant organization, miss teen tours, received the news that Nakhiyah had passed away, it was hard for the group to accept it.
“I couldn’t breathe. I choked,” Genine Perez- National Director of Miss Teen Tours said. “I felt like the air sent me back to 2016. It took my breath away.”
Nakhiyah was the passenger in a 2010 Mercedes when it lost control, striking a cable barrier, and ejecting her from the car along interstate 530.
Genine Perez says Nakhiyah was like a daughter to her. One that closely mirrored her biological daughter, who passed away in an accident on the same interstate six years ago.
“She was very similar to Olivia,” Perez said. “On November 3, 2016, a day before her 20th birthday, Olivia was killed on that same highway. What’s really crazy is that they died 19 miles apart. Nakhiyah was celebrating her birthday and Olivia was getting ready to celebrate her birthday.”
Reality has yet to set in. Assistant director for miss teen tours, Shayla Alexander said she too had a unique bond with Nakhiyah
“She showed up, she did her job, she did it well, and set the example for the other young ladies,” Alexander said. “It’s bittersweet when you create a bond with someone who is like a little sister to you.”
Although Perez is proud that her organization has helped trouble teens overcome battles, she’s most proud of teens like Nakhiyah who positively impacted her peers in return.
“I’m proud of Nakhiyah,” Perez said. “I’m sad. I’m hurt. We are hurt. She belongs to us. Someone sent me a message today and said Olivia needed somebody there too.”