When Nicholle Wyatt first started working with high school students, nearly 25 years ago, it was on the college admissions side at her alma mater, Pacific University — a small liberal arts college west of Portland, Oregon, near where she grew up. “By the time I had anything to do with them, I was the person saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ — and I didn’t like that aspect of it,” says Wyatt. “I wanted to get to students before that.”
Now, as a college counselor at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in San Diego, she’s right where she wants to be — working hands-on with high school juniors and seniors, and also with 9th- and 10th-grade students, to help them understand and navigate the often complex and confusing college admissions process. (Wyatt is also on the admissions team at the University of California Los Angeles). In the summers, Wyatt helps teens from under-resourced schools in and around the San Diego area with the college application process, pro bono. “I can only reach 10 or 15 students at a time, though,” she says.
Which is why the Bovard Scholars program appealed to her so much. In her three weeks with high-achieving, low-income students from across the country, she feels she reaches so many more.
“I enjoy what I do,” says Wyatt. “That’s why I give up my summer. I personally don’t see it as work.”
And as a first generation student herself, Wyatt identifies with the kids — even though their backgrounds might not exactly match her own. Her parents limited her college search to a 90-mile radius. They weren’t even sure college was the right choice for her, Wyatt says. But Wyatt found a school that fit — and it put her on the path she’s on today.
“Everybody has their own unique story,” says Wyatt. “I see myself as their cheerleader — the one to say, Hey, you have a story to share. You have things to contribute.”
To future scholars: “There’s going to be more than one school that’s a good fit for you. And in the end, you decide — you choose the one that’s the best fit.”