York Technical College
"I let my daughter know I’m doing this for us. There are better opportunities out there for us to achieve. I'm showing her there's nothing stopping her from doing anything in this world."
My name is Yanika Gaymon, but you can call me Nika. I am 35, but feel older than that. I came to York Tech in 2007, after going to South Carolina State University for three years. Things went astray there, so I came back home to try to figure things out. I started working because I needed a job. At that point, I was like, “What am I going to do? What do I want to do in life?”
Tell us about how you came back to York Tech.
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher or a nurse. I worked at a child development center for seven years, which was wonderful, but I got to a place where I was pregnant with my daughter and I was still thinking, “What is it I want to do?” I came to the program at York Tech to become a medical office assistant, but instead of getting certified in everything, I just kept working and going through different jobs. I got caught up in trying to make a living.
All my jobs within the last 10 years have been in the medical field, and I thought, “Nika, you like this, but you want to do more. What are you going to do?” I ended up getting an interview with a healthcare company, but as I was going through the HR approval process, they told me they wanted me to have a medical assistant certificate. That blow came in January of 2020.
Then COVID hit in March. I had already put in my two weeks notice at my previous job, and while I had found a job at a dental office, they sent us home due to COVID. It was just me and my daughter at home, so I had plenty of time to think, do my research and make some phone calls.
That’s when I learned about the Reconnect with York Tech program. Basically, if you started a program at York Tech, they’ll give you 12 months to re-enroll and complete it, and they pretty much pay for everything: classes, books, all of it. I said, “Let me give this a shot.”
It has been beyond awesome. With the financial costs of school covered, that’s one less thing I had to worry and stress about. The fact that they cared enough to create a program for people who started a program but had to stop because of life says a lot. I still tell people about York Tech and just how awesome they have been on this journey for me. I’m graduating in two weeks.
As a Rock Hill native, what did you hear about York Tech growing up? How has your impression changed?
In high school, when I was thinking about college and where I wanted to go, York Tech was an option, but we also have Winthrop in Rock Hill which is on the higher end for college. I never downplayed York like others did, but I thought I wanted to go to a four-year college.
York Tech has grown tremendously since then. They have so much to offer. The teachers here are awesome. It’s just not like you’re just here to go to school, they really care about you. They provide so many resources to help you to succeed.
Compared to my experience at SC State, you can be more personable with your teachers at York. In our minds, we all think we have to go to a four-year college, but that path is not for everybody. I think people get too consumed with what others are doing and trying to fit into that mold. At York Tech, I feel I can still be the same person. You’re coming here on a personal journey to get to where you want to be and to do exactly what you want to do.
How did you feel coming back to school?
I was nervous. Would I be able to keep up with the workload? How would I do on testing? All of those worries came back because it had been so long. With the Reconnect program, I have an advisor, and there is also someone I can talk to about things that I wasn’t grasping in class. And, of course, there is tutoring. Once I got into the classes, I realized it wasn’t as hard as I had been anticipating. I feel like the teachers did a great job setting up the schedule in a manageable way.
What have you learned about yourself?
I learned that I can do anything I put my mind to. I feel like it’s all mental. It’s what you think and what you tell yourself. I got to the place where I knew I could do it…and I did. Even with the self-doubt and nervousness — I pushed all that to the back of my mind. I didn’t make excuses. I just did it.
Right now I have all As. I didn’t have all As in high school, even though I was a good student back then!
What does your daughter think about this?
She just turned 11. I’m teaching her how my grandparents taught me, and she has good manners and great behavior. She’s going into the sixth grade and entering a new phase in life, so I’m there talking with her. I let her know I’m doing this for us and she understands. There are better opportunities out there, and we can get it and achieve it. I’m letting her know there’s nothing stopping her from doing anything in this world.