Nyla’s Story: From Foster to Freshman

Class is now in session for students at the University of Southern Mississippi
Nyla Dennis overcame a rough start to life through perseverance and support from those who love her.
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 6:47 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - One college freshman at the University of Southern Mississippi said she didn’t let family struggles hold her back from her dreams of higher education.

Anything new can bring a mixture of emotions, especially transitioning from high school to college. USM freshman, Nyla Dennis, said she is quite familiar with the concept of transition.

“My home life before I moved in with (my foster parents) was rough,” said Nyla. “And I had a really close friend; he told me, ‘If you don’t want to do this, I’m here for you. We can go get help.’”

Dennis later moved in with her foster parents, John and Laura Harry.

“CPS contacted us and just said, ‘Hey, we realize that you’re not a foster parent right now, but would you be willing to take this step?’” said John. “We just stopped and prayed over it and tried to figure out what the next step was, and it was a resounding ‘yes.’ We’re very thankful that we just played this small part in (Nyla’s life).”

With her new family, Nyla started focusing on her future, and that’s when she met Ashley Ogans.

Ashley works for Youth Villages as a LifeSet specialist. The LifeSet program helps youth aging out of foster care to make the transition to college or independent adulthood easier.

“We would meet once a week,” said Ashley. “I would either go to her home or her school. We worked with her counselor to make sure she was able to attain all the goals she was working toward for college.”

John said he and his wife are proud parents and that hearing Nyla laugh or seeing her contagious smile brings the entire family joy.

Monday, Aug. 22, was Nyla’s first day of classes. She said she’s excited to see what the future holds.

Nyla is majoring in elementary education at USM with hopes of helping 2nd graders get ‘To The Top.’

Youth Villages is a Memphis-based, national non-profit that helps children, youth, and families live successfully. Their local office is in Hattiesburg.

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