Alumni Spotlight: Cyniah

Cyniah Wynn, a new college grad and Higher Achievement alum, recently returned to her former Ward 8 Achievement Center – this time as a mentor. “I always liked the program,” says Cyniah. “I loved going to Higher Achievement and I loved my mentor. I wanted to be that person for someone else.” 

Ms. Cyniah works with a group of three 5th-grade scholars—Adreanna, Kamone, and Maci—who meet weekly for mentoring. “We talk about homework, how we feel, and how school is going,” says Kamone. Ms. Cyniah makes a point to open their time with intentional relationship-building before diving into the lessons. “We talk about how our day has been, what’s been going on,” says Adreanna. “I ask them what’s one good thing and one bad thing that happened to you this week, and what is something that you want to happen in the next week that would benefit you,” says Cyniah.  

Grounding the lessons in relationships builds a foundation of trust and respect in the group and directly connects with the 5th-grade mentoring curriculum lessons on role models and friendship. Recently, the group worked on a presentation sharing what they have learned and discussed together over the last several weeks. Together, Adreanna, Kamone, and Maci created a PowerPoint and presented to an audience of mentors and their peers. They talked about friendships and how to express confidence internally and externally. Ms. Cyniah helped them prepare by sharing what makes her feel confident.  

While mentoring is a highlight of Higher Achievement for Adreanna, Kamone, and Maci, they also appreciate the field trips, down time, and time for homework they have in the program. “We had a cooking class and it helped me learn about cooking and chocolate,” says Maci.  

Ms. Cyniah is proud of the creativity, humor, confidence, and kindness she observes in her scholars. “When I was in Higher Achievement, my own mentor was young,” says Cyniah. “I wanted to be that kind of ‘older sister’ where they can feel comfortable expressing their feelings. I feel like I can relate to them…we even sometimes watch the same TikToks and use the same phrases, so I have a connection to them on that level.”  

It’s been meaningful for Cyniah to return to Higher Achievement and take her journey full circle from scholar to mentor. “The fact that I wanted to come back to Higher Achievement after middle school speaks to its impact. I joined Higher Achievement because I appreciated my mentors and created lasting bonds with them. I’m 21 now and still keep in touch with them and some Higher Achievement staff!” 

Cyniah appreciates that Higher Achievement offered her social-emotional support in addition to academic enrichment.  “Sometimes I didn’t want to go home right away and Higher Achievement was a safe space to relax and have fun while still learning. It also helped me to prepare for and work on the transition to high school.” A decade later, Higher Achievement is still offering scholars a safe, supportive community where they can explore their passions on the journey to high school.  

Mentors like Ms. Cyniah play a profound role in nurturing the next generation of scholars as they develop their talents and gain confidence in their abilities.