Nia Hill wants you to know that the West Side of Chicago has great people who do great things. Born and raised in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, she also understands first-hand the barriers that residents in these systemically marginalized communities face.
“A quick Google search tells you what you want to know,” said Nia on where she grew up, noting the prevalence of violence and poverty caused by institutional racism.
Nia’s family experienced homelessness when she was in high school after losing their Section 8 voucher. They “bounced around a lot” – staying with an aunt, people from church, and hotels before eventually settling into stable housing.
“It was a humbling experience,” she recalls, “learning how to do without a place you would normally consider home.”
Nia is grateful for the support and guidance that her mother, youth pastors, and friends provided to help her navigate these challenges. Their support allowed her to focus on her academics and extracurricular activities.
As a student at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Nia played softball, interned at a financial literacy nonprofit, and participated in Chicago Scholars, a program that supports first-generation college students.
Nia went on to major in Accounting at Howard University, a historically Black university in Washington, D.C. on a full-ride.
“Howard was an amazing experience,” she said. “I was able to be around people who looked like me, and be taught by people who looked like me. Being in that kind of environment as a Black woman in America is very important.”
A 2016 CCH scholarship winner, Nia shared that the award was “very, very helpful. The fact that it was renewable each year provided consistent income and supported me throughout college.”
CCH also supported Nia while she was on a spring break trip in the Dominican Republic in March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
“CCH made sure I was able to get back to the states before everything closed down,” said Nia. “They also paid for a hotel so I could safely quarantine. Since then, I’ve made sure to remain connected with CCH.”
In 2022, Nia earned a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Columbia University on a full-ride scholarship for HBCU graduates. Today, Nia works as a Management Consultant at Deloitte Consulting in Washington, D.C. She also looks forward to visiting her family in Chicago whenever she can.
Nia served as a member of the CCH Scholarship Selection Committee last spring, helping to select the newest class of scholarship winners.
“It was a great experience,” said Nia. “I think it was an awesome way to give back. It was a full circle moment.”
Nia has also participated in youth advocacy initiatives with CCH’s Organizing Department and served on the governance committee for CCH’s Mutual Aid Fund, helping to manage the program and choose recipients.
Going forward, Nia strives “to gain the experience and connections needed to make a difference in my community. Being directly impacted made me want to address these issues even more.”
Her longer-term goals include creating a nonprofit to support people impacted by incarceration and to launch a social-impact-focused consulting firm. She also plans to return to Chicago, so she can make a difference in her home community on the West Side.
To young people navigating challenging times she says: “This is only a chapter in your story. It’s hard to hear this when you are going through it, but this too shall pass. You’re going through what you’re going through for a reason, and it will all make sense soon.”