2010-07-30 / Community

Norman’s Road to Success

By Amanda Grannis

In times of economic uncertainty and an ultracompetitive job market, obtaining a college degree is more pressing than ever.

Yet far too many youths, including those in Rockaway, often encounter fatal obstacles to academic success when they get mixed up in gangs and street violence.

With both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, resident Nyjeri Norman encourages students of all ages to pursue their dreams because they might just come true if you work hard enough. Earlier in her education, Norman admits that her drive was lacking. As a high school student, she did not fully take her education seriously.

“It was my time to meet up with my friends and enjoy,” Norman states, “I cut class and had a chance to be around my friends, not knowing that they were handing in their assignments and passing their tests.”

One of the most heartbreaking moments for Norman was watching her peers graduate from high school while she was being held back.

“After everybody graduated it made me feel like a failure … just defeat,” she recounts.

Following the ceremony, the mother of one of Norman’s friends urged her to not give up on her academic goals. While she may not have completely appreciated this message at the time, Norman would soon follow it as a lifelong philosophy.

While Norman kept trying to graduate from high school, two standardized tests seemed to repeatedly stand in her way. Always just a few points away from passing, Norman was told at age 21 that she was too old to retake the exams.

After steadfast perseverance Norman received what she deems a “glimpse of hope.” She heard of a program at John Adams High School that could allow her to obtain a diploma. At 28, she obtained permission to retake the two exams, and this time, passed. In 2006, Norman received her high school diploma. She offered a speech at the ceremony, urging students to push forward towards success.

Now at age 32, Norman has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, and is in the process of receiving a doctoral degree. With a successful future lying ahead of her, Norman is a role model not only to her young daughter, but to the entire Rockaway community. “I never wanted to settle,” she says, “just to sit back and let life happen.”

From her experience, Norman tells other students to work hard even in discouraging times.

“It’s never too late … the sky is the limit. If you set your mind to do something, do it.”

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