For a long time, no one could identify the first-grader holding a “Class of 2017” sign in the old photograph hanging in the Clark County School District’s board room.
Then Nyla Christian attended a School Board meeting to offer public comment and recognized her son, Niko, in the photo.
The mystery solved will come full circle Friday when the tiny student in that 2006 photo graduates from Valley High School’s International Baccalaureate program. His next educational adventure begins in the fall, when he starts classes at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, on a full-ride scholarship.
“I have to give credit to CCSD for having the IB program,” said Niko, now 18. “Because without the IB program … I’d be the same person, but it’d be different.”
The photo was taken during the district’s 50th anniversary celebration in March 2006. Niko was chosen among all the first-graders to say a few words to the crowd — but it was so long ago, he barely remembers them.
Niko and his single mother later pounced on the opportunity to attend the district’s magnet schools. He attended Joe Mackey Elementary and Roy Martin Middle before attending the IB program at Valley High.
His mom said she knew the Clark County School District had a poor reputation when it comes to academic excellence, but they made the best of it.
“Coming from New York and coming from a private and Ivy school background, I got a lot of flack,” said Nyla Christian, who also attended Wesleyan. “A lot of times from people who were like, ‘Why would you stay there?’”
Stay they did, supplementing Niko’s classwork with extracurricular activities. Over the years, his “free time” was packed with summer academic programs and clubs such as the Black Student Union.
“School is all about what you put into it,” Nyla Christian said. “I don’t think at any point I ever sent my son to school and said ‘OK, that’s it.’”
Reflecting on his 12 years of education in Clark County, Niko thinks of a proverb: It takes a village to raise a child.
“There’s so much effort — real actual effort, not just money (but) teachers and administrators that are passionate about getting students, just getting them to the next step,” he said.
Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.