When recent high school graduate Lyric Wise found out she had won a $50,000 scholarship to help pay for college, her first reaction was to let out a slew of “Oh my gosh’s” and “Thank you’s.” Her next instinct? To do a little dance — on national television, no less — and cry out “I’m going to Drexel!”
Some of the shock and awe for the 18-year-old West Philadelphia native has worn off since she received the scholarship live on “Good Morning America” on April 29, but her excitement to start at Drexel as a communications major this fall is still at an all-time high.
DrexelNow spoke with Wise about the University ties she already has, how she thinks a Drexel education will help her accomplish her dreams, and her advice for other students who face adversity on their path to higher education.
Q: How did it feel to win the $50,000 scholarship on “Good Morning America?” How will the scholarship help make your dreams come true?
A: It honestly was a surreal feeling, knowing that I can continue on this journey trying to better myself through education, that my financial requirement won’t be a burden, and especially [that I will be attending] a university like Drexel. I've always wanted to go to college and I always knew that I would. But with the pandemic and everything, I felt like I was hitting rock bottom because it was not like I was visiting schools and or getting a full experience to remind myself that it’s possible.
Like I said, I felt like I hit rock bottom, but I see now that’s the best place to build a foundation because if it wasn't for the pandemic, I don’t know if I’d have this opportunity. Now, I can be educated at Drexel without a problem. It’s amazing. I still can’t believe that that happened.
… I'm kind of a big deal at my school as well because I'm salutatorian and president of the National Honors Society. When I had gotten accepted to Drexel, my principal was so ecstatic because I'm only the second person in my school's history to ever get accepted. … I felt like I was trying to set an example for kids everywhere, because at a moment like this, I wasn’t even in school because of the pandemic, and I’m still overcoming everything. I really was so happy at just the fact that I’m not in this by myself.
When I first decided to go to Drexel, I was a little bit freaked out. I feel like, at any school, you're opening a new chapter in your life so that can scare you. I’m not going to say that hindered me from making the decision because I also made the decision because I know that I have a community at Drexel. But knowing that the community is now so much bigger because my story is being shared is amazing. I was just so happy.
Q: You mentioned already having a community at Drexel. Are you specifically referring to already taking part with Writers Room?
A: Yes. Oh my gosh. I’m a part of the Writers Room and I love everyone.
When I first got accepted to Drexel — and I actually applied to over 13 schools — I was so scared of choosing one because I really didn't know where I wanted to go. I always said I wanted to go to Howard [University].
… But when I had announced to them that I was accepted at Drexel and Temple, because [Writers Room] is a combination of alumni and current students from Drexel and Temple, knowing that I had so much support from them gave me a strong confidence in my success.
Also, I was a part of an internship [at Drexel] last summer with the Wesgold Fellows. It’s a nonprofit organization funded by the West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution VestedIn, which ensures that high school students have the education that they need to be conducive in life.
… In the program, all of my coordinators were Drexel co-op students. That also made me think about the kind of people that Drexel has and how they create success for everyone around them, because not only was I able to engage in an internship like that, but I also got to see how the co-op made my coordinators’ lives even better.
Q: Tell me about your journey to reach this point and the hardships you faced. How were you able to stay focused on your future and your success as a student?
A: The story that they shared on “Good Morning America,” I feel like it’s so inspiring because success is really inconvenient. I feel like no matter who you are, success doesn't care about the hardships you endure or the sacrifices that you have to make. And for me, I’ve had to overcome so much. School has always been my outlet because I feel like, you know, knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you’ll grow. If you go to college, if you pursue a trade, no matter what you do, the more you experience you have in building your brain, you're going to be successful no matter what comes your way.
… When I met my principal [at Paul Robeson High School] nobody really asked me [before], on a personal and serious note, “What do you want to be in life and why?”
I always knew I had to be something because of everybody around me and everybody that was dependent on me. I'm the oldest of all my siblings and I have four siblings. And so it’s a bit of a burden knowing there are so many people looking up to me. But when I got that question, and knew somebody only cared about my well-being, I knew that it was entirely for me, it really made me think, “What do I want?” In thinking about that, it showed me I want to be the best I can be at anything. I also believe how you do anything is how you do everything<strong>, a</strong>nd so, being at Paul Robeson, a school where I had so many opportunities at my hands, I realized that I had to take everything given to me and get the best out of it.
Q: What do you hope to get out of your college experience here at Drexel?
A: There’s a lot of good schools in my neighborhood, a lot of good schools I could have chosen, but I don't feel like any school had what Drexel offers with the whole co-op opportunity. The fact that you get a hands-on education, it’s special. My mom, she works at the University of Pennsylvania, so if I would have been accepted, it’s crazy because it’s the only school I didn’t get accepted to. But, if I would have been accepted to UPenn, I would have had a full ride. They have a lot of programs, but they don’t have co-op, so I honestly feel like you get the buck for your bang [at Drexel]. A lot of schools, they don't ensure the college graduates get to work in the career field of their choice or their liking. With the whole co-op opportunity, I feel like that ensures that you will be offered a position after you graduate doing what you were spending so much time on.
Q: What are your career goals or goals for the future? How do you think a Drexel education will help you get there?
A: I've always wanted to help fight addiction in my community. … I feel like going to Drexel won't just help me fight addiction in my community, it’ll help me fight addiction in every community because despite what people think about addiction, it has no bias. It really will take anybody. And for me to have bias and to say, “Oh, I just want to help my community,” is being selfish. To say that it’s just my community that’s dealing with this would be selfish. So, going to Drexel will help me collect the knowledge and people needed to fight this social epidemic, because it’s very, very big, and a lot of people deal with it. Even people my age.
… I want to help everybody, because I only know what I see. And I know that there is so much more to do, so I want Drexel to help me see those things more clearly, and on a wider scale.
Q: What do you like to do for fun? Are there any nonacademic activities or clubs that you want to be a part of here at Drexel when you get here?
A: I'm definitely going to continue with Writers Room. I love writing. I feel like it's a way to communicate yourself to people who can't hear you. I also plan on joining the Islamic sorority.
I like to be active. When I was in high school, I cheered, I played softball, I played volleyball, I created a debate club, I was on the newspaper. I just did so much that I felt like, when I get to college, I have to continue doing things because I don't want to just be stressed out over school.
I don't know if I really want to continue sports because I've endured a major injury from softball, but I know for a fact that I will be joining a whole lot of clubs to keep myself occupied. They might be more on the social side, getting to know people and people getting to know me.
… I feel like communications was such a smart decision for me because people are always saying, “You should be a motivational speaker. You know how to talk so well.” When I was being interviewed by the <em>Philadelphia Inquirer</em>, the journalist told me that I should be a philosopher. So, you know, hearing all these good things, it just gives me motivation to keep talking.
Q: Do you have any advice for students facing the hardships you’ve faced?
A: Well, from one scholar to another, I would say a lesson learned should be a lesson shared. I wouldn't have overcome everything that I have been through if I wasn't constantly thinking about tomorrow. So never stop thinking about tomorrow because it’s right around the corner, and if you don't separate yourself from your distractions, your distractions will separate you from your goals. Don't live in time. You want to live in the moment because you can't get your time back, but you are a moment in time.
Wise won her $50,000 scholarship from Tallo, a web-based college and career connections platform, which launched this initiative to help a high school senior who had been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more, click here.