‘I’m not paying for college’ | Joke turns into nearly $2M in scholarships for Jim Hill High School senior

Iyanna Nichols, 18
Iyanna Nichols, 18(Iyanna Nichols, 18)
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 10:40 AM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - “I’m not paying for college.”

Five words that started as a joke by a mom cashed into nearly $2 million in scholarships for a driven, 4.3 GPA Jim Hill High School senior.

“I stopped announcing after I hit a million dollars back in February,” Iyanna Nichols confessed. Now it’s closer to $1.7 million and counting.

The soft-spoken, humble, yet confident teenager has her cap and gown ready to graduate with an associate’s degree from Tougaloo College on Sunday with a 3.9 GPA. Next - the glitz and glam of high school prom and, weeks later, high school graduation. Wow - right!

While many high schools have dual enrollment programs for students to earn college classes, it’s always a select group of learners who participate and do exceptionally well.

“I was going to my high school classes, checking in with my teachers in the morning. And then later in the day, I will check in with my college professors, and I just juggle work for both,” she said.

Nichols says pushing herself is the only culture she’s ever known.

“I think my mom really set the standard for me. I was born when she 22. So, she was always encouraging me to work hard and to push myself because she believed that I could do anything,” Nichols said.

Persistence is a common trait among the Nichols family.

“My sister, my brother, my mom, and my dad, um, we are all very driven. We love to compete with each other as well. We’ve always had competitions about something,” Nichols smiled. “The ongoing joke is that everyone in my family is athletic except for me, so we find ways of connecting and competing with each other. It’s how we bond, I think.”

When Nichols’ mom joked a year ago that she wouldn’t pay for college, Iyanna started her own competition to reach a million dollars in scholarships.

“I took that joke to heart, and I didn’t want my parents to pay for college,” Nichols said. “I mean, I felt like I could do it. Scholarships are everywhere, so I just started applying to HBCUs and keeping a spreadsheet,” she added.

Months later - like any other goal - it was set and crushed.

Now, the only immediate decision is where to finish college.

“I don’t know where I’m currently going, but I do have three final choices.”

Nichols, who loves working with children and is fascinated by human behavior, wants to be a child psychologist.

Good luck, Iyanna!

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