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Buick Achievers Are Driven to Succeed

By Titus Falodun | 4/11/2014, 6:15 p.m.
The Buick Achievers share a moment in the sun Saturday, April 5, at Morehouse College. Left to right: United Negro College Fund president and CEO Michael Lomax Ph.D., Buick Achievers: Ty’Quish Keyes, Nartezya Dykes, Oneisha Hall, and GM Canada President Kevin Williams. Photo by Titus Falodun/TheAV.

ATLANTA – A fatal car accident fueled Nartezya Dykes to become the first person in her family to attend college.

So, this past weekend, when the United Negro College Fund and General Motors honored the 22-year-old Spelman College graduating senior, along with two other Buick Achievers Ty’Quish Keyes (Morhouse College junior) and Oneisha Hall (Tuskegee University junior), it represented the unrivaled drive of underprivileged students excelling despite life’s unforgiving challenges.

Born to a 15-year-old mother, Nartezya, as well as her cousin Natasha Dykes, spent a significant part of early childhood under the roof of their loving grandmother, who constantly reinforced the idea of hard work and perseverance.

“She didn’t attend college but she pushed us to be the best that we could be in life,” Nartezya told The Atlanta Voice.

It was Natasha who was on track to be the first in the family to reach an institution of higher learning, until her life was cut short, which left Nartezya with a void…and a spark.

The fatal car crash became a reminder to her of how invaluable life is, as well as serving as a catalyst for her to accomplish what Natasha had set out to do.

“We now have a role model in the immediate family that my younger brothers, sisters, and cousins can reach out to, and seek advice about college,” she said. “They don’t have to look toward people on TV. They have a real role model that they can count on to encourage them to pursue higher education.”

Nartezya Dykes will earn her degree in computer science, and serves as a technical assistant for Black Girls Code, which is an organization dedicated to increasing the number of women of color, between ages 7 to 17, to become future innovators and leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

Dykes story is one of many inspiring tales of Buick Achievers, which included 21-year-old Ty’Quish Keyes, who made his way out of the concrete wilderness of North Philadelphia, Pa. where the saying goes, “Ain’t no hope for Norf.”

North Philly is touted as Philadelphia’s deadliest neighborhood. Daniel Denvir’s recent article cited that “since 2003, there have been at least 150 shootings and 30 murders in the roughly one-tenth of a square mile bounded by 29th Street, Ridge Avenue, Lehigh Avenue and York Street.”

In this hostile environment where dead end lives reside on dead end streets, standing out academically like Keyes only brings abusive criticism and worse.

“I did feel like an outcast,” Keyes told The Atlanta Voice. “You get looked down upon for being smart. People call you white or a nerd, because the atmosphere is sell drugs, fight, and steal, and you’re doing something different.”

Sensing the deadly consuming nature of North Philly, Keyes’ mother was proactive in getting her son involved in various activities, from science fairs to sports camps, which showed him that his situation was not going to be conclusion.

“It allowed me to broaden my knowledge, by showing me a diverse world made up of people just like,” Keyes said.