The Big Lots Behavioral Health Scholarship is awarded to a student who plans to pursue a graduate degree in the field of behavioral or mental health, social work or psychology.
Nyaga is currently earning her master’s degree in social work at Howard University and is expected to graduate this December. While maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, Nyaga serves as the Parliamentarian of the Howard University School of Social Work Student Council Association and is in the process of helping to re-write the Association’s constitution.
“After reviewing all the applicants’ essays and recommendations, Ms. Nyaga stood out as the deserving recipient with her solid academic track record and detailed letters of references.” said Lois Stepney, MSW, a member of the scholarship selection committee at Nationwide Children’s. “Ms. Nyaga’s vision of the future, with a focus on social justice, greatly inspires me, and I agree with her recommenders that she has a bright future where she will make her mark on bettering our world in an impressive way.”
Completing her undergraduate studies in social work at Ryerson University in her hometown of Toronto, Ontario, Nyaga became the first Black woman to hold the title of president of the Ryerson Students’ Union. Nyaga oversaw a $7 million operating budget, 11 full-time staff and 50 part-time staff.
Nyaga also was the president of the United Black Students in Canada. In this role, she helped plan the National Conference for Black Students in Canada, which is the largest Black student conference in the country.
Nyaga hopes to open a not-for-profit in Toronto that will provide educational support, including before-and-after-school programming, for school-aged children, at no cost. Additionally, Nyaga seeks to provide a range of affordable or free services to parents, such as mental-health counseling, pro-bono legal support and adult educational programs.
“Ms. Nyaga is a smart, passionate, thoughtful community leader,” said Jeremy Ball, vice president Internal Communications, Philanthropy, and Events at Big Lots. “Her impact professionally will be felt in the behavioral health field and in the underserved communities for which she’s so passionate.”
This is the second year the Big Lots Behavioral Health Scholarship has been awarded to a deserving undergraduate or graduate student. Funded through an endowment from the Big Lots Foundation to Nationwide Children’s, the scholarship awards $10,000.
Last year’s inaugural recipient of the Big Lots Behavioral Health Scholarship was Julia Paxton, now a senior at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Paxton, a former behavioral health patient at Nationwide Children’s, is an advocate for the On Our Sleeves® movement and is committed to using the degree she is pursuing in social work to support others living with mental health diagnoses.
On Our Sleeves is the movement to transform children’s mental health and with one in five children living with a serious mental illness and half of all lifetime mental health concerns starting by age 14, there is a need for evidence-informed resources to support children. Through its mission, On Our Sleeves provides every community in America with free resources for breaking the stigma surrounding child mental health. Launched on October 10, 2018, all materials provided by On Our Sleeves are created by behavioral health professionals at Nationwide Children’s, home to the nation’s largest mental health treatment and research program.
Big Lots and the Big Lots Foundation have been devoted supporters of the hospital’s mission to be the leader in pediatric mental and behavioral health wellness, care and research. In 2016, Big Lots and the its foundation committed $50 million to support the building of the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion, which opened in March, and Big Lots Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
This past May during Mental Health Awareness Month, the Big Lots team also engaged with the On Our Sleeves movement, sending internal emails and videos featuring behavioral health experts at Nationwide Children’s discussing the importance of mental wellness, especially in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
If you or your child need immediate help due to having suicidal thoughts, go to your local emergency room immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
About On Our Sleeves®
Because kids don’t wear their thoughts on their sleeves, we don’t know what they might be going through. That’s why Nationwide Children’s Hospital launched On Our Sleeves to build a community of support for children living with mental illness through advocacy, education and fundraising for much-needed research. For more information about children’s mental health and to help break the silence and stigma around mental illness, visit OnOurSleeves.org.
About Big Lots, Inc.
Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Big Lots, Inc. (NYSE: BIG) is a discount retailer operating 1,408 Big Lots stores in 47 states with product assortments in the merchandise categories of Furniture, Seasonal, Soft Home, Food, Consumables, Hard Home, and Electronics, Toys & Accessories. Our mission is to help people Live BIG and Save Lots. We strive to be the BIG difference for a better life by delivering unmatched value to our customers through surprise and delight, being a “best places to work” culture for our associates, rewarding our shareholders with consistent growth and top tier returns, and doing good in our communities as we do well. For more information about the company, visit www.biglots.com.
About Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report’s 2020-21 list of “Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric health care systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of more than 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.6 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at NationwideChildrens.org.