Forman Scholar Akina Nichols Breaks Stigmas and Changes Lives

Creating a more compassionate, inclusive world is proving to be Forman Scholar Akina Nichols’ passion. Based on personal experience with those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Akina aspires to become a psychiatrist so that she can help people affected by the disorder, particularly those in the military.

Akina is thrilled to begin her college career this fall at Swarthmore College where she will be majoring in chemistry and psychology. Once she graduates, she hopes to go to medical school to study psychiatry to one day become a doctor.

While chemistry and psychology may appear to be two complex fields of study, Akina decided to pursue the two after the experiences she had in high school. She says it was her amazing high school teachers who helped foster an appreciation for both subjects from her early days as a sophomore.

On the other hand, her desire to treat those in the military with PTSD once she becomes a psychiatrist came from her personal experience seeing several loved ones battle the disorder.

“A few people I know who have PTSD weren’t in the military but they have developed the disorder through different things in their lives,” she said. “So that made me see that people like that need help, and that’s where my inspiration for becoming a psychiatrist came from.”

But studying isn’t the only focus for Akina once she gets to Swarthmore. Akina also wants to use a grant she received from the college to start a nonprofit that focuses on diversity training. While she was already passionate about doing work in diversity during her high school involvement, she’s ready to turn that into a reality in college.

“Diversity training had been a plan for me before I received the grant, but just having the grant makes it possible now,” Akina said. “I couldn’t be more excited!”

The fall schedule is going to be a busy one for Akina. When she isn’t studying or working on her nonprofit, she hopes to participate in some of the intramural sports that Swarthmore offers. Specifically, she’s interested in possibly joining a flag football team and being a part of the school’s rugby team.

Even though this will be her first experience living away from home, Akina says she’s more excited than anything. She can’t wait to live on campus, get to know her new roommate, and start what will certainly be an exciting semester. Throughout it all, Akina says the support the Forman S. Acton Foundation has given her – from the Forman Scholarship to the guidance during her transition to college life – has been a big help in making the move away from home that much easier.

“The entire staff has also given us so much helpful advice about college and paired us with local mentors to guide us even more,” Akina said. “It’s really helpful to have them with me as I navigate the process and start the next four years of college life.” 

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