YORK — York High School senior Tyson Nitzel has been recognized as a Horatio Alger Association National Scholar.
The nationwide scholarship starts with a pool of 35,000 students, and is narrowed down to but 106 – each receiving $25,000 in scholarship money.
Nitzel said he was surprised he received the nationwide honor. “I couldn’t even say anything – I was speechless. That’s when I knew I was for sure going to college.”
The scholarship focuses on students who have overcome obstacles while maintaining scholastic and extracurricular excellence. Nitzel has certainly had obstacles, from being in foster care to struggling with drug use.
Nitzel bounced between four foster homes since 2009, after leaving a dysfunctional home. His biological father was in and out of the household. “He wasn’t there because he got caught up in drugs and alcohol,” Nitzel said. His mother also battled alcoholism.
Growing up, there were times Nitzel seemed to be headed down a similar path. As many bumps as there were in that path, between Nitzel’s tenacity and the stars aligning, he has overcome scuffles with the law, drug use and rejection. At one point, Nitzel was to be adopted, but was kicked out of the house for behavioral issues one week before the adoption was to be official. “I know what it’s like to be depressed,” he said. Depression plagued Nitzel for many years. “I felt like I wasn’t good enough.”
Still, the system worked for him. “Probation turned my life around,” Nitzel said. “I decided, ‘I’ve got to do better.’” He also credits enrolling in York Public Schools with fostering his successes – and getting through tough times. “By far that was the best decision I’ve ever made,” he said, adding that the teachers at YPS were there to make sure he succeeded. “That’s what I love about these teachers,” Nitzel said. He also leans on his classmates and friends. “There isn’t always going to be an adult to keep you on the right track, but you’ll always have your peers.”
A goal of Nitzel’s, he said, is to uplift his peers. “It’s a goal of mine to help everyone that has depression. No matter what, I want to help kids.” His educational and career goals reflect that; he has chosen to attend Peru State College to eventually become a juvenile probation officer, and later a guidance counselor – a nod to those who have inspired him and supported him along the way. “Credit’s needed when credit’s due,” he said.
Credit is also due to Nitzel’s fighting spirit throughout a life full of obstacles.
“I’m not one to give up, because there are so many people around me who have given up. That’s not who I am.”