Neikya Slade radiates joys as she walks the campus of North Carolina A&T University. She’s almost floating. With good reason: Neikya just realized a dream that began when she was a little girl growing up in Greensboro.

“I knew I wanted to help people: a doctor, a firefighter a social worker, anything that let me serve this community,” Neikya recalls. She remembers standing by her grandmother’s side volunteering, giving back to her hometown. “I really love to serve; it’s something I’ve done since I was little.”

In her teens she worked with the Boys and Girls club, and found her calling. “I was talking to some students, and I was like wow, there are a lot of needs. Learning about the social work program (at N.C. A&T), I knew I wanted to be a social worker. I want to help people.” Neikya worked hard in school, graduating from the Middle College at Bennett in 2016, dreaming of a college degree and the career path that provided.

Neikya worried her dreams would be just that…dreams. A college education and degree seemed out of reach. “My mom and dad didn’t go to college; I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go to college because of finances. I didn’t want my grandmother to have to work extra hours, long hours to pay for tuition.”

But her grandmother wasn’t going to let Neikya give up on her goals. “She kind of pushed me, told me not to let other people’s struggles affect my goals. If there’s a will there’s a way.”

The way was Say Yes Guilford. “Initially I was like, there’s no way that they’re just going to pay for me to go to college, so when I filled my application and then saw that my balance had been paid for, I was so excited.” Thanks to federal aid and a Say Yes grant, her tuition and many of her expenses were covered.

That was 2016; in 2019 Neikya graduated with a degree in social work. With her dreams right in front of her, she can barely keep her feet on the ground. “I’m really happy. I’m right here. I can touch it. I can feel the changes that I’m going to be making in other people’s lives.”