Naikyyia Manick didn’t always envision herself as a college student. Growing up, she wasn’t the kind of student who loved school, and she never really focused on higher education. All that changed when she discovered her passion for social work.
As a student at Hillhouse High School, Naikyyia developed a special relationship with Ms. Onya Harris, the school’s social worker. “She was the go-to person and so good to talk to,” recounted Naikyyia. “I talked to her all the time…and then she kept me there because I was influential to the younger kids.”
Naikyyia discovered she was good at giving advice to her peers, and she began to consider how to transform that talent into a career. She considered pursuing a profession in psychology, but decided to follow Ms. Harris’ example and commit to a career in social work. “If you’re a social worker, you have the chance to make a difference,” she said.
Recognizing that she would need more education to make that dream a reality, Naikyyia began to focus on college. As a first generation college student growing up in a neighborhood facing a slew of challenges, she was also motivated by a desire to be a point of promise for her community. Through New Haven’s Independent Study and Seminar Program, she took classes for college credit at Gateway Community College during her junior year of high school. She listened to family members who encouraged her to continue her education and worked hard to complete her college applications and keep her grades up.
Thanks to her persistence, Naikyyia qualified for a scholarship from New Haven Promise when she graduated from Hillhouse in 2012. The tuition assistance she received from Promise helped make it possible for her to enroll at Eastern Connecticut State University last fall. “There wasn’t much that I could have done to pay for school myself,” she explained.
“College helped me grow up,” she reflected. “I had to learn how to take care of myself.”
In her freshman year, Naikyyia focused on developing her sense of independence and time management skills. “College helped me grow up,” she reflected. “I had to learn how to take care of myself.” This summer, she is tutoring at the Kumon Center in Milford, an after-school math and reading program for students. She hopes to one day serve as a social worker in schools or within the juvenile justice system, and believes her experience as a tutor will help prepare her to work with children in those settings.
With a career goal now in mind, Naikyyia has learned to view school in a different light. “Education is the key to opening doors to everything,” she explained. “I do it to better myself.” Now she sees herself not just as a college student, but a burgeoning social worker and the go-to person for a future generation.