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Prestigious National Award Recognizes Once Homeless Northern Virginia Community College Student

Niketas Koussis, Student at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA)

Sterling, VA (March 7, 2019) -- With a story that includes years of homelessness and challenging family issues, 19-year-old Niketas Koussis is transforming adversity into action. Today, Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society (PTK) awarded Koussis, a student at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), with two of the nation’s top scholarships recognizing outstanding academic achievement among college students.

Koussis and his mother were homeless from his seventh to tenth-grade years. "These ended up being the roughest five years of my life," Koussis said, "we bounced from motels to homeless shelters and were even forced to sleep in our car during my sophomore year in high school. I experienced days where my only meal was the free one at school and I struggled because I didn’t have access to the technology I needed to complete my homework. But, I didn’t give up and I made sure all of my assignments were turned in, on time." Regardless of how problematic life became for Koussis, he pushed through the adversity and he never looked-for pity regarding his situation.

Kousssis is an integral part of NOVA's Loudoun Campus in Sterling, Va., where he is a business administration student with a current course load of 19 credits, enough to finish and graduate in May. In addition, he works 40-hour weeks at Best Buy in Leesburg, where he is a top producing sales associate with personal sales of $1.7M this fiscal year. Last year, he was promoted to manager of a team that is among Best Buy's fastest-climbing in national sales.

Koussis also leads two critical student organizations, the PTK National Honor Society and Phi Beta Lambda (the Future Business Leaders or FBLA "Business Club"), working alongside others in the name of Scholarship, Leadership, Service and Fellowship, the four pillars of the PTK Honor Society. These pillars were not unfamiliar to him; he cites them as existing cornerstones of the way he sees his world. He has now made it his mission to help others. When asked why he does it, he replied, "Because of all that I've experienced. I don't see it as an obligation at all. It's something I just really want to do."

As VP of Service for PTK, Koussis has championed "Cram Week" before finals each semester, a weeklong effort where students and faculty provide academic help to students in need. He also devised and implemented an important “Personal Finance” event with visiting industry professionals, teaching the finer points of credit, FICO scoring, and its impact. He and another PTK officer recently spearheaded a job fair, with 30 participating companies that met with dozens of interested applicants. Koussis also helped organize and pack over 10,000 meals to benefit community members in need this past holiday season – all in the throes of Fall exams.

A Pathway to the Baccalaureate student in high school, Koussis wanted to earn a Bachelor's degree and decided to take advantage of the NOVA/Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) dual-enrollment classes while at Heritage High School. 

Koussis candidly describes himself as “not the strongest student” during his Heritage High days, where he graduated in 2017. His middle school years were also uncertain and stormy, so he spent his time in high school trying to turn things around. Koussis shared that as a kid he enjoyed the visual entertainment of television and cinema, and had a particular affinity for independent films and festivals. Koussis initially applied to multiple four-year schools hoping to study film. After assessing all options, his decision to attend NOVA was two-fold, a desire to finish college with as little debt as possible and awareness that college is his "second chance" -- a time to show the world what he can do. Niko is always quick with words of encouragement for other students, "NOVA has so many opportunities available for students to succeed. As a student, you just have to seek them out; get involved. It's all about finding and making the connections."

Koussis will graduate NOVA in two-months debt-free and in a wonderful station in life. He is currently waiting for notification from several schools, UVA and the College of William & Mary among them. Still stunned by the news, he says, "this scholarship award is a huge honor and the money will help to pay for next year at school." Koussis will continue to work full-time this summer to help support his family, and so he can save as much as he can for school.

Koussis is one of 20 students to be named to the All-USA Academic Team and will receive a $5,000 scholarship. The All-USA program is widely recognized as the most prestigious academic honor for students attending associate degree-granting institutions. All-USA Academic Team members were selected for their outstanding intellectual achievement, leadership, and community and campus engagement. Koussis has also been named a 2019 New Century Transfer Pathway Scholar and will receive an additional $2,250 scholarship. New Century Transfer Pathway Scholars are selected based on their academic accomplishments, leadership activities, and how well they extend their intellectual talents beyond the classroom. Over 2,000 students were nominated from more than 1,200 college campuses across the country. Only one New Century Transfer Pathway Scholar is selected from each state. 

The All-USA Academic Team is sponsored by Follett Higher Education Group, with additional support provided by Phi Theta Kappa and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The New Century Program is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Phi Theta Kappa, and AACC. The New Century Transfer Pathway Scholars and All-USA Academic Team will be recognized at Phi Theta Kappa’s Presidents Breakfast in Orlando, Florida, on April 15 during the AACC Convention.

 

Story Source: Tatyana Schum, Campus and Community Relations, Loudoun Campus | 703.450.2520 | tschum@nvcc.edu

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About Northern Virginia Community College: The largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.


About Virginia’s Community Colleges: Since 1966, Virginia’s Community Colleges have given everyone the opportunity to learn and develop the right skills so lives and communities are strengthened. By making higher education and workforce training available in every part of Virginia, we elevate all of Virginia. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve more than 252,000 students each year. For more information, please visit www.vccs.edu.

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