Just a few years ago, 18-year-old Schoolyard participant Christyna Nyholm didn’t have an answer to the question, “What are you doing with your life?” Today, though, she knows exactly what she’s doing: She’s going to college and — thanks to her outstanding grades — she has earned herself a $12,000 scholarship through the UA Scholars Program.
“I wasn’t necessarily doing the best in school before I went to the Alaska Military Youth Academy,” Christyna recalled. “AMYA was a wake-up call. I was like, Holy cow, I really need to get my life together.”
To get into AMYA, Christyna turned to CITC’s Schoolyard Program, where Youth Services Manager Suzanne Weist helped her apply. Christyna has been involved with Schoolyard since the ninth grade; the after-school program provides a space where she can study and get help with her homework when she needs it.
“I love the environment,” Christyna shared. “They give you snacks, and you get to hang out with your friends for an hour. Then you get down to business — you do your homework, and if you’re struggling, you have tutors at your fingertips. It’s better than a library.”
Christyna credits AMYA for equipping her with the values and discipline she needed to raise her grades. Her transformation is evident not just in her grades, says Suzanne, but in her attitude.
“She came in here at first and was very unhappy. Her grades were fairly poor. But as time went on, her attitude really started changing. She became positive, she became a leader and mentor to a lot of our other students. Her work ethic and everything about her has completely changed. She’s got a great future.”
Christyna, who is originally from Seward, also found a connection to her culture through Schoolyard. “She told me this program has been a way to really get to know her culture better and stay involved in it,” said Suzanne.
Thanks to Schoolyard and AMYA, Christyna was able to improve her grades enough to get into the top ten percent of her class, bringing her 1.9 GPA up to a 3.3. Today, she has been named to her school’s honor roll, and she has already earned her GED with AMYA. Christyna will graduate early with her high school diploma this December from Benny Benson Secondary School. She plans to attend either UAA’s Anchorage or Fairbanks campus. The scholarship she earned will help cover tuition, room, board, books, and other fees as she works toward her degree. She is considering becoming a dental hygienist.
The UA Scholars Program aims to provide an incentive to Alaska’s students to achieve academic excellence and to encourage Alaska’s top high school graduates to continue their education in-state as they develop into Alaska’s next generation of leaders.
Christyna’s newfound confidence as a leader has led her to become an intern with CITC’s Youth Empowerment Services department.
Qualifying for the UA Scholars Program wasn’t easy, said Christyna. “I had to work hard, but it was a good kind of challenge,” she described. At Schoolyard, she didn’t just find a space to do homework and improve her grades — she found the encouragement and connections she needed to achieve her potential.