Act Six Alumna, Nicolette Viken, reflecting back

We recently had the chance to catch up with Act Six Alumna, Nicolette Viken, part of the first graduating cadres of Trinity Lutheran College. Three years now out of college, she reflects on her journey in her own words:


My high school years were difficult as I had to deal with a family tragedy my freshman year. I ended up graduating from alternative high school and thought that college was not an option so I started working at Home Depot.  But I had always dreamed of college and wanted to do something positive for my family and community.

I was lucky enough to be connected to this opportunity by someone who I consider a mentor, leader and better yet, my older sister, Crystal. At that time, I was 19 years old and had graduated HS over a year prior.  I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into but quickly learned that attending college could be a reality for me.

Though I was weary I began writing essays, my grammar was horrible and I could not imagine someone would be interested in learning more about my personal life, the struggles I had overcome and the dreams I once had but no longer thought about.

Being accepted in the first round is a blur, I just remember thinking “oh great, the next step is going to be even tougher.” Knowing I would be competing with high school seniors and never being one who fit in, I was extremely intimidated and worried that people wouldn’t see my potential during the Phase II event.

I began thinking what this scholarship would mean to me and my future so I put my best foot forward and really pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Even though I was unsure of myself, the selection committee saw leadership potential.

I am not a leader in the typical sense, I am not outspoken nor will you find me in the front of the line. I did not always think this was valuable but through the selection process, training and my college experience, I have learned that I am an authentic leader.

During the third phase I remember thinking I totally bombed my interview with Trinity’s admission person because I just broke down and cried. I cried because for the first time in my life I had realized that my passion for helping people and ability to do so was being recognized in a real way.

It just so happens that Act Six Scholarship award letters were mailed out around my birthday, so for my 20th birthday my sister handed me an envelope and after opening and reading the first line telling me congratulations on becoming an Act Six scholar I was ecstatic- I knew my life would be different from then on.

Shortly after receiving such a wonderful birthday gift, and having someone confirm my potential, I began leadership training at NLF. My mind was stretched and I started to change, my mindset was altered because I was learning so many things about the world, society and what I could do to change things.

This is when I became an agent of change, not just for myself but for my community and generations to come.


What did Act Six mean to you during college?


Act Six was and still is a part of who I am. During college it was especially important because it was part of my identity.  Attending school on such a small campus was tough but I knew I had the resources and support available when I needed it.  I will say that it was not always easy to ask for help, but I knew I could if I needed to.

Having a cadre was like having a family away from home. I had people around me that were experiencing the exact same thing as me and looking back at it now, I probably could have nurtured some relationships in a better way but for the most part we all knew we had each other’s backs.

Act Six training was so important. Everything Crystal and Tim said would happen in college definitely happened- the good and the bad.  But having the training helped me get through whatever hardship I encountered and gave me opportunity to grow in so many ways.

In particular I remember a conversation I had with my sister over the phone and finally being able to say for the first time in my life that I really enjoy learning. It was amazing how much information, knowledge and experiences I didn’t know I could have and that I would have so much fun doing it.


How did you practice “leadership” in college?


I practiced leadership in formal roles such as working for admissions as a student ambassador, I worked at the front desk as a receptionist, and I became Secretary in Trinity’s Student Government. But the most important leadership role I assumed was my cadre “mom” role.  I tried to be available to those who needed someone to talk to when no one else was. I definitely had disagreements with other cadre members like I was their mother- but overall I felt like I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was meant to be doing.


What are your post graduate plans? Any longer term plans?


After graduating from TLC in 2013, I have done a year and half of AmeriCorps service, working in Tacoma Public Schools Tone Resource Center, where I coordinated after school programming for highly mobile students. Through this service I also became a Krista Colleague through The Krista Foundation for Global Citizens.

I am currently at Metropolitan Development Council working in two middle schools in Tacoma as an Education Advisor for TRiO Talent Search.

I have plans to pursue graduate school but have not quite figured out what I want to study.


How has Act Six influenced your career/vocational choices?


Act Six has helped influence my career choices tremendously. I honestly would not have gone to college when I did if it were not for Act Six.  I am able to do what I love- working with students who live in the community I grew up in- and I have the opportunity to be who I needed when I was their age.

Luckily I get to utilize the Act Six curriculum to reach my middle school students and have real, transparent conversations with them regarding leadership, race, social justice and education.

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