CHICAGO — Lindblom High School shines like a jewel in West Englewood.
Inside, senior Nylah Sanders glows, too.
“Nylah is a unicorn. She is a humble superstar and she doesn’t realize that she’s a superstar,” said school guidance counselor April Weathers.
The 18-year-old walked the halls for the last time, knowing she’s earned a special place in the school’s 106-year history.
“I guess I feel honored,” she told WGN News.
It’s not just her bright yellow shirt that makes her stand out in the crowd. Nylah is the first Lindblom student to earn an Associate’s Degree before receiving her high school diploma.
“I was able to take multiple classes each semester, so it was nice to actually do it,” Nylah said.
Weathers called the rare academic feat impressive.
“She started doing it thinking, ‘I’m just going to lighten my load in college. I’m going to take some of my classes early,’” she said.
As part of the class of 2023, Sanders’ entire high school experience was altered by the pandemic. During that strange time, most students simply survived but Sanders thrived.
“Every cloud has a silver lining. Like, that’s just her,” Weathers said.
Instead of falling behind in the “Covid learning gap,” Nylah jumped ahead, viewing working at home as a way to do more homework.
“I got to do my work earlier instead of waiting until I get home, which would be later in the day,” Nylah said.
With the extra time, she took college-level courses at Malcolm X College.
“I didn’t do anything except school because we couldn’t go out,” added Nylah, who now has completed two full years of college coursework before she steps on campus.
“In the fall, I’m going to the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and I plan on majoring in Biology for pre-Med,” she said.
Nylah aspires to be a medical doctor and one day work as a forensic medical examiner. So, the Austin resident found time, after her double load of school work, to graduate from the demanding Chicago Police and Fire Training Academy, which is a competitive two-year program that accepts only 125 Chicago students each year. The goal is to train recruits for potential careers as first responders.
In addition to participating in the Chicago Police and Fire Training Academy, Sanders played on the varsity softball team all four years. The senior is also a member of the National Honors Society and even helps teach eighth graders Biology as a teacher’s apprentice.
Now, with half of her college coursework completed before high school, you might say she’s taking success to a new degree.
“Wow, the world is really getting a jewel in her,” Weathers said.
Lindblom’s graduation is Saturday, May 27, at the Arie Crown Theater.