Senior snapshot: Life experiences lead Weinberg senior to teaching at Chicago charter school

Jillian Sandler

Dana Nickson will be spreading the knowledge she gained in Northwestern courses to classrooms of young Chicago students.

After graduation, the Weinberg senior will be teaching at one of Chicago’s three Urban Prep Academy campuses as a part of the Urban Prep Fellows Program, a one-year service opportunity for recent college graduates to work at the all-boys charter school. Nickson, an African-American studies major and anthropology minor, said she hopes that through her work, she can help to improve aspects of the African-American community.

“I will be teaching and serving as a mentor, tutor and advocate for the 25 young men in my class,” Nickson said. “My African-American studies major inspired me to want to work in African-American communities and alleviate some of the issues you see in urban centers … I have an interest in education, so I feel the (fellowship) will help me to see if I want to become a teacher.”

Nickson said her interest in education and the African-American community stems from her own experiences, as well as those of her family. She also said she feels education is the best way to provide solutions for the issues currently facing African-Americans.

“Looking at my own life experiences, I come from a family of educators who have taught in African-American communities, so I think it’s kind of a family thing,” she said. “The issues facing African-American people come from a lack of opportunity and education … teaching is a way that I can give back, and through teaching you can help solve other issues.”

Aside from her passion in education, Nickson has been involved in various endeavors throughout her NU career. She served as the co-chair of the One Voice Benefit Concert, an annual show that raises money for a local cause. Nickson was also a recipient of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, which allowed her to do research during her junior and senior years. She received the Management Leadership for Tomorrow Fellowship, which encourages students of color to pursue managerial opportunities.

Nickson, who cited her favorite NU courses as Introduction to African American Studies with Prof. Barnor Hesse and Anthropology of the Middle East with Prof. Jessica Winegar, said she will miss the flexibility of college life.

“I’ll miss being able to set your own schedule,” she said.

She said the best parts of her NU experience have been her interactions with fellow students, from which she gained a lot of knowledge.

“I’ve really enjoyed the intellectual conversations in class and that I’ve had with students,” she said. “Everyone is doing something really interesting, and I feel I’ve learned the most from other students.”

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