“Attendance is important. You need a good education to get to the next level in life.”
United Way’s Be There initiative promotes excellent school attendance to children so that they will have greater success in school and more opportunities following graduation. The “Be There” Awards recognize outstanding adults in Allegheny County who encourage school attendance. Nikkia Ingram was a 2017 “Be There” Award winner for her work with the organization she founded, Cultivating Resilient Youth, basesd on her experience working with teens and attendance in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
As a security guard at Brashear High School, Nikkia Ingram has seen it all. When she started noticing that the kids who were missing a lot of school were falling behind academically or being labeled as having a learning disability, she knew she had to step in and get involved.
It’s not unusual for Nikkia to call a student to wake them up, check in with parents when a student isn’t in school, or keep track of the grades students are earning. In fact, Nikkia became so involved with students and their attendance that the school principal encouraged her to start a nonprofit to help formalize her role.
Nikkia formed Cultivating Resilient Youth to support children through mentoring, leadership, peer mediation, problem solving and a strong focus on academics. It helps participants navigate the college application process, complete with college visits.
Currently, 30 girls participate in the program. “These kids are dealing with things that adults would have a hard time coping with,” Nikkia said. “I can help them find avenues to resolve their problems.”
To Nikkia, education matters “because it’s how you get to greatness and success.” She goes to great lengths to get that message across to students at Brashear. She invites former students to come in to speak with current students during their twice-weekly sessions.
“I love working with young people,” Nikkia says with a smile, “They may feel stuck now, but you encourage them to stick with it, not give up.”