CTK Alum Successfully Transitions to College with Dreams of Med School

When asked what was the toughest part of starting at Western Illinois University, Kyshanna Atkins CTK ’19 responded, “As an only child, it was having a roommate. Although she gets on my nerves at times, it has worked out well.”  A first generation college student, Kyshanna has thrived as a sophomore, Biology/Medical Sciences major at WIU, and her answer speaks to the role the CTK community played in preparing her for college academics and life.

As a reserved CTK freshman, Kyshanna initially struggled with her coursework and making friends and wasn’t sure if she wanted to stay.  She realized that in order to be successful at CTK she would need to step out of her comfort zone.  By the time she was a senior, Kyshanna had found her voice and become a leader in her class through her involvement as a Peer Minister, Student Ambassador, Majorette, and National Honor Society Secretary.

An important part of her growth can be attributed to her Corporate Work Study Program experience. She had the opportunity to work for several different companies in a variety of industries giving her perspective on career options while building her professional and communication skills. She cites her senior year job at Kirkland & Ellis LLP with giving her confidence in her abilities to work independently and handle increased responsibilities. Much of the credit for this is given to her Kirkland & Ellis supervisor, Sarah Quinlan who became an encouraging and hands-on mentor to her. “There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t check in on me, asking how I was doing, if I understood my assignment, and how the college process was going. She made me feel welcomed and appreciated.”

Much of what she learned about finding a college fit came from CTK College Counselor, Daniel Zundel.  She shared her goal of finding a college where she could pursue her desired major without going into debt. Mr. Zundel made her aware of the Renaissance Scholarship for first generation college students, and helped her through the application process. The combination of that scholarship and other financial aid has put her on the path to graduating from Western Illinois debt-free!

Kyshanna is living on campus and taking most of her classes remotely from her dorm room.  While not a typical college experience, she appreciates the opportunity to continue to learn and grow. Her only in-person classes are her science labs, limited to 10 people.  She aspires to go on to medical school - another first for her family - intending to become a Neonatologist, due to her love of babies.  She hopes to return to the Chicago area for medical school and her eventual medical practice.

She offered up the following advice to current CTK students, “School may be overwhelming at times, but be open to all that CTK offers you. I would recommend CTK to anyone who wants to be prepared for college, the real world, and whatever comes your way.”