June 15, 2021

Hykea, future veterinarian

“Hello! My name is Hykea and I’m going to be a veterinarian when I grow up. My dog Rico is the number one thing that I worry about. Some of my favorite things are animals, people, school, and jewelry. I’m a third-grade student at Milwood Elementary.”

Hykea and her mom Nikkea at Hykea’s 10th Birthday celebration.

Smiling, attentive, and always positive, Hykea lights up every room – and every zoom – with her sweetness and enthusiasm. Hykea is described as a hard worker and dedicated to her education. She has perfect attendance and loves school, her classmates, teachers, and school staff. Her mom says she is a social butterfly. In addition to school and caring for Rico, she also plays the violin and is in cheerleading, gymnastics, and dance. If attitude is everything, Hykea is set up for great success.

It’s not difficult to see where Hykea’s positive energy comes from. Hykea’s mom, Nikkea, is full of warmth and support for her daughter. Nikkea’s positive view of life is inspiring. She does not hesitate to open up about the time she needed to repeat a year of school during elementary. From her perspective, being held back was not a set-back; it was an opportunity to get on track for future success. And that she did. Nikkea went on to complete two years of school in one year to graduate on time, earn a master’s degree in social work (graduating with high honors and as valedictorian of the College of Health and Human Services), and now works as a social worker. As she says now, “I tell Hykea all the time that she can do the same and even better. This is one of the things that has kept her spirits high during this trying school year!”

During Hykea’s third grade year, her reading levels did not meet the recommendations for fourth grade. Nikkea had to make a tough decision between keeping Hykea in third grade or pushing for progressing to fourth grade, potentially behind her peers in reading. Nikkea knew it was best for Hykea to repeat third grade. She made the decision knowing she herself is living proof that if you work hard and turn challenges into opportunities, you can be anything you want to be.

“If you work hard and turn challenges into opportunities, you can be anything you want to be.”

Determined to help her daughter realize the opportunities available to her, Nikkea has built a support team around Hykea. Sam Darby, Communities In Schools Site Coordinator at Milwood Elementary, is a big part of what Nikkea considers the “inner circle of support” for Hykea. Though Hykea has perfect attendance and works hard at school, she has struggled with academics. Working with Nikkea, teachers and volunteer tutors, Miss Sam has helped Hykea improve her reading.

When the state converted to virtual learning in March 2020, Hykea struggled with the transition and her grades began to suffer further. With Kalamazoo Public Schools opting to remain virtual for the 2020-21 school year, Hykea’s circle of support knew more was needed.

Hykea receives weekly virtual tutoring and check-ins with her CIS site coordinator. They work on homework assignments, extra practice in reading and math, and sometime just chat. Miss Sam says that the growth that she has seen in Hykea over the past year is tremendous. Her confidence level in her homework assignments has improved, and her initiative to get her assignments done on her own is amazing. “Hykea is not one to give up, and she works very hard. It has been so fun to work with her and watch her grow as a student! It’s also been amazing to see all different aspects of KPS come together to help come up with a plan best suited for Hykea. It was truly a team effort, with a large portion of the recognition going towards her mom for being her biggest advocate.”

This is the power and strength of CIS. We connect students to caring adults and community resources that help them see, confront, and overcome the barriers that stand between them and a brighter future.

When asked three words that describe Miss Sam and CIS, Hykea said positive, excitement and happiness. For Nikkea, the best words to describe CIS are helpful, resourceful and team player. They both say that without CIS, Hykea would not be doing as well academically.

If playing her violin for Rico and teaching her pet fish to “read” is any indication, Hykea is going to be a veterinarian with a very warm heart for animals. If attitude is everything, she will find success no matter what her future holds. When asked her favorite word, she says “I have like a million”, and shares a few: positive, honesty, happiness, safety first and caring. Nikkea quietly responded, “those words describe you.”  And Hykea agreed.  

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