Advice to Future Scholars from Nyalah Payne, RP Scholar | CCC ’20 | SJSU ’22

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Hi everyone!

My name is Nyalah Payne, I was born and raised in the Bay Area, and have lived in the city of Richmond all my life. I’m a proud alumni of De Anza High School and now, a proud alumni of Contra Costa College. I’m an African-American female majoring in Mechanical Engineering, and on my way to earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, hopefully minoring in Robotics.

I’m going to be honest with you, it took a lot of hard work and tears to get to this point. I’m not saying this to discourage you all from being engineering majors because any goal that you wish to achieve will require hard work. I just want you all to know that if I can do it, then I know that you all can do it! There were many obstacles (COVID-19 included) that I had to face in order to get to where I am today, so I would like to share the most important advice that I have for those of you beginning your college journey, and those who are continuing on that journey.

1. You will get discouraged and it’s okay. Through my academic career, I have received my fair share of ‘F’s’ on tests even though I felt that I tried my best to study. The thought “Should I really be an engineer?” has passed through my mind multiple times due to receiving bad grades on assignments. However, I’m here to tell you that each and everyone of you are extremely intelligent, and it’s okay to fail sometimes. The important part is to learn from your mistakes and ask for help. When I get discouraged, I usually watch inspirational TED talks, or watch motivational movies like Hidden Figures, Rocky, Karate Kid and others.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This was a huge problem for me since I struggled (and every now and then still struggle) with social anxiety. I was also always concerned about being seen as “stupid” just because I needed to ask for help or needed clarification. But the truth is, there are no “stupid” questions. Peers and teachers are usually happy to help if you ask them, that’s also how I met new people and made new friends.

3. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a day to destress and collect your thoughts. It happens to many students, we have family matters, work, school, maybe extra curriculars, and all these responsibilities. We get extremely stressed and burned out. The assignments keep coming and don’t wait for you to get your life together. When this happens it’s important to take a day off, preferably a day that no classes are held. Take this time to listen to music or podcasts that you enjoy, meditate, and plan how you’re going to tackle the assignments that have piled up. I suggest trying to do the most recent assignments so you won’t get even more behind.

4. Lastly, face your weakness, they will develop into strengths. People thought it was weird that I wanted to be a Mechanical Engineer since I struggled with math so much. I met some discouraging people along my journey, but I’m proving them wrong. To face my weakness, I decided to become a math tutor. I felt that I would be able to help others like me and improve upon my skills. I’ve been a math tutor for almost two years now, and have been able to help many students. Facing my weaknesses enabled me to succeed, and help others do so as well.

I couldn’t have made it this far without the support of my family, friends, my Center for Science Excellence (CSE) family at Contra Costa College, and of course the Richmond Promise team. Joining programs like CSE and Richmond Promise has helped me tremendously. They actually care, and you all should definitely take advantage of programs like these that are on campus. Remember that you all are extremely intelligent and capable of achieving your goals no matter how big they are. Please, dream big and although it may just seem like your dream is just a dream, you have the ability to make it reality. It may take a lot of work, but if you are patient, hardworking, and passionate you will achieve anything you put your mind to.

Thank you,

Nyalah Payne

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