Professional Journeys of CTK Alums and Siblings Leading Them to Achieving their Goals

Our alumni are increasingly returning to CTK to help out at events and mentor our students. At the recent Career Day event, the Burns siblings, Nyema ’16 and DeWayne ’17 shared their professional journeys with current students. While pursuing different career paths, both have remained focused on their goals and eventually secured positions matching their interests, Nyema in nursing and Dwayne in business.

Nyema was the first to enroll at CTK, with its private school setting and academic focus being important to her. She was a dedicated student while at CTK taking AP classes and a National Honor Society member. DeWayne followed his sister to CTK a year later. He admitted to coasting his first two years, but he eventually became more committed to his studies. He attributed the changed attitude to improved maturity and teacher encouragement. He shared that, “Several teachers saw my potential and pushed me to get the best from me. They didn’t give up on me.” Both of the Burns cited their participation in CTK’s Corporate Work Study Program as being beneficial to their growth. Nyema worked at several companies including CME Group, noting the experience helped bring her out of her shell, saying: “I learned how to be comfortable in a professional setting working with people who didn’t look like me.” DeWayne interned his last 2 years at Loyola Press, and says he realized later that, “The experience gave him an advantage and helped him to be a better job candidate than others due to the real-world exposure he had through the program.”

One activity the two Burns had in common during their time as Gladiators was excelling on the basketball court. Nyema proudly commented that “most of the trophies in the CTK trophy case were won by my CTK teams.” Basketball ultimately had a strong influence over their college choices and experiences. Both selected the schools that recruited them the hardest, Dominican University for Nyema and nearby Concordia University for DeWayne. Nyema competed for her four years of college while also pursuing her nursing degree. She acknowledged it being stressful to practice 2+ hours a day while in nursing school, forcing her to prioritize her time effectively. DeWayne also played on the basketball team for all four years at Concordia but needed to persevere through 2 ACL knee surgeries and an abbreviated schedule his senior year due to COVID. He somehow was also able to work part-time at a local pizza place, while juggling time as a student-athlete, majoring in Business Management. Nyema graduated with a BS in Nursing in May 2021, DeWayne graduated in December 2021, with his BS degree in Business Management.

Nyema realized she wanted to go into nursing at an early age. Her mother was an inspiration having earned a bachelor’s degree and working in health care as a Respiratory Therapist. The pathway to becoming a nurse was a challenging one for Nyema. Starting at Dominican, where she initially needed to complete the requirements to apply to and be accepted into the nursing program, including securing a specific score on the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) exam her junior year. After graduating from college, she devoted two pressure-filled months to studying for the NCLEX licensure exam, which she passed in July. Her first nursing job was working overnights, 7pm – 7am, three nights a week at Advocate Christ Medical Center in the Cardiac Progressive unit. In this role she cared for patients getting ready for or having just had heart surgeries. She valued the nursing experience, but realized that her preference was to tend to babies rather than adults. She had initial exposure to treating newborns in her clinical rotations while at Dominican, and felt drawn to it. A year later in September 2022, after applying to various hospitals, she started an overnight position in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. This specialized assignment required 12 weeks of training alongside an experienced NICU nurse before being able to work on her own. While challenging, the work is meaningful for her. “It’s gratifying to see the sick babies grow and get better, and graduate from the NICU and go home with their parents.” Nyema is happy in her role, feeling she was “meant to do this job.”  

DeWayne’s career journey took a different course than that of his sister. He realized early on that, “I wasn’t a health care guy”. The goal-oriented, people person discovered he was better suited for a business career and set his sights on business management opportunities. He started his first full-time job while finishing up at Concordia during the summer of 2021 working at Total Quality Logistics, a freight brokerage firm, as an Account Executive trainee, and then in Carrier Sales. He transitioned to Go2 Logistics in the same industry where he worked for two years as a dispatcher, in carrier sales, and eventually was promoted to a Team Lead position overseeing a 3-person staff. Challenges within the freight industry resulted in a brief layoff, but DeWayne rebounded in October 2023 by landing his current Management Trainee position at Penske Truck Rental company. After completing an initial training rotation and Emerging Leaders program, he is currently interviewing internally for his first promotion to a Corporate Procurement Coordinator position. He believes his previous experience in the logistics industry and in providing strong customer service will help him to be successful. He sees himself carving out a career at Penske, with a goal of eventually becoming a District Manager.

Nyema and DeWayne offered valuable advice to current CTK students also pursuing dreams of college and career success.

“Keep pushing yourself to go to college. It’s important to find the right balance. Identify your priorities, and focus on the things that will get you to where you want to be.” ~ Nyema Burns

“Don’t take the opportunities at CTK including the Corporate Work Study Program for granted. Know what you are ultimately there for: to go to college, graduate, and find a good job. Take the right steps at college and use the services available to you including career counseling and resources.” ~ DeWayne Burns