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Joke turns into nearly $2 million in scholarships for high school senior

Iyanna Nichols, who loves working with children and is fascinated by human behavior, wants to...
Iyanna Nichols, who loves working with children and is fascinated by human behavior, wants to be a child psychologist.(Iyanna Nichols, 18)
Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 1:15 PM EDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT/Gray News) – A mother in Mississippi told her daughter she wasn’t paying for college – a joke that turned into nearly $2 million in scholarships for a driven, 4.3 GPA high school senior.

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

Nichols is part of a dual enrollment program and will graduate with an associate’s degree from Tougaloo College on Sunday. She’ll graduate from Jim Hill High School in a few weeks.

“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 was 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. Nichols said everyone in her family is competitive.

“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, the high school senior started her own competition to reach $1 million 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 historically black colleges and universities and keeping a spreadsheet.”

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 said.

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

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