A tribute to Niko
By Grant V. Ziegler
UPDATE: Nkonyezi’s mother attended the and waited with the rest of the graduates before walking on stage and accepting Nkonyezi’s diploma from DCCCD Trustee W. Wesley Jameson at the North Lake graduation ceremony on May 12. Pictures can be found at the bottom of the article.
If you are a student, faculty member or on staff at North Lake College, you can attest that it was hard not to bump into a woman known as “Niko” at least once.
Nkonyezi Nathifa Nanyamka, aka Niko, was involved in almost every program at NLC. That’s why a massive void is left now that she is gone.
Niko passed away April 4, 2012, at the age of 19. According to family and friends, she succumbed to complications from lupus.
She was president of the International Club, andthe Ambassador’s Club and vice president of the Photography Club. She was a member of the Student Government Association (SGA) and an honorary member of Phi Theta Kappa.
She was instrumental in the development of the Blazer Student Store and occasionally wrote for the News-Register.
Niko’s innate ability to capture life with her camera earned her many awards and published work. In 2007, she placed first in The Texas Girl’s State Fair competition and her work was inducted into the Women’s Museum in Dallas. In 2009, she placed second in the Gordon Parks Young Photographer’s Competition, and in 2010, took first place in that very same competition. Her work also made it into NLC’s literary magazine, Duck Soup.
Although it is hard not to dwell on the loss of such a great individual, the many who knew her are choosing to remember who she was, what she did and how sincere of a person she was.
“Niko showed me how to put others’ needs ahead of mine,” said Daniel Tran, president of the Blazer Ambassador’s Club. “She was so caring. No matter how sick she felt, she always put everyone ahead of herself.”
Many members of the International Club witnessed firsthand how hard Niko worked. According to various members, the club was just supposed to be a social gathering project where people from all over could get together and have a good time. However, Niko saw things differently. She showed up at the first meeting with an agenda and 20 pages of guidelines for the club. Now, the International Club is fully functioning and a vital student organization on campus.
“The first thing I ever noticed about her was her determination,” said IC member Jean Louis. “She had a great vision for herself and others. And had a heart for service.”
Dan Tossing, photo-lab instructor, said that the Photography Club was very fortunate to have her as well. “What impressed me most about her was her willingness to ignore boundaries and go after what she wanted.
“She helped me realize to step back and respect and help others as much as you can,” he added.
President of Phi Theta Kappa, Jeong Lee, who was in the IC and SGA with Niko, spoke of many great memories together.
“I remember singing Backstreet Boys songs with her in the backseat of the NLC van on the way to events. We went out to eat all the time together with Edith Emeralda and all we would do is talk and laugh. She was a sweet, lovely and energetic girl. I’m going to miss all the fun and meaningful talks we had.”
Niko’s life was celebrated April 10 at a service at the Unity of Dallas Church. If you would like to help Niko’s family, the Accounting Services of NLC are accepting donations for medical and funeral expenses.
Although her physical body may no longer be with us, her spirit lives on. Her bright smile lit up the hallways and will never be forgotten.