Dancer Nyah Brooks One of Many Success Stories for Class of '23

Friday, May 12, 2023
Nyah Brooks, front, participates in the NAIA Cheer and Dance National Championships on March 11 at the Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. (JC Sports Photography, Jaime Crawford)
Nyah Brooks, front, participates in the NAIA Cheer and Dance National Championships on March 11 at the Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. (JC Sports Photography, Jaime Crawford)

Ten years ago, Nyah Brooks made a deal with her mother. The La Crescent, Minnesota, elementary school student could continue to pursue her passion — dance — as long as she maintained both her excellent grades and her focus on playing the piano and clarinet.

“My mom liked to say she wasn’t going to raise a ‘one-trick pony,’” Brooks said. “She wanted me to be a well-rounded individual and not lose the balance in my life.”

The effort was a tremendous success. Brooks, an outstanding student and young woman of many talents, will be one of the 407 candidates for graduation at Viterbo University’s Spring Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 13. She will earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing and has already accepted a position as a registered nurse in the neurology department at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse. It will be the crowning achievement of a senior year in which, as a member of the university’s dance team, she was named the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Co-Dancer of the Year, first-team All-American and the university’s Female Athlete of the Year.

Nyah Brooks

“Our whole team was beyond proud and thrilled for Nyah,” said Viterbo dance team coach Anna Luz. “She has earned the full respect of her teammates because not only is she an extremely talented dancer, but she also strives to be the hardest working person in any room she enters. Nyah has been blessed with natural abilities, but her determination and discipline are what have gotten her to this level. She is the first to arrive and the last to leave. I am grateful that she has graced our team with her talent and easy-going personality the past four years. She has set the standard for hard work, discipline and humility for years to come.”

Brooks’ love of dance began at age 3 as a student at Nicole’s Dance Studio in La Crescent, where she trained until graduating high school in 2019. She chose to attend Viterbo because of “the strong reputation of the nursing program and the opportunity to join the competitive dance team.” Brooks persevered through a stress fracture and two torn tendons — including one in her ankle this season — to lead her team to seventh-place finishes at nationals the past two seasons and achieve personal All-American honors in each of her four years of collegiate competition.

“The dance team has been like a second family,” Brooks said. “It is full of talented and wonderful girls all working toward the same goals. Everyone is really dedicated.”

Brooks attacked her nursing education with the same tenacity she does everything. She minored in neuroscience and sport science, completed three nursing internships and a research fellowship, and was involved in several campus organizations. She managed to do all this while working as a CNA in a nursing home for three years during the pandemic and volunteering in the community.

“I really became interested in nursing when my grandfather was a patient in the hospital,” Brooks said. “I was a child, but I could see the important role nurses played in both his care and in reassuring and interacting with the family. After completing a career exploration project later in middle school, my heart was set on it.”

As a result of her academic success, Brooks was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society. She was offered her Gundersen Health System nursing position during a hallway conversation with the nursing supervisor who oversaw her sophomore clinical site experience.

“We’d love to have you back,” the nurse told her.

Viterbo nursing faculty member Mary Burke got to know Brooks well during the past year.

“Nyah is an incredible student and brings a strong work ethic to her sport and studies,” Burke said. “It is rare for a nursing student to have the initiative to complete two minors and three internships while excelling at her sport and academically as a nursing major. It is a testament to her ability to plan and stay organized, two essential skills needed in nursing practice.”

“One of the qualities I appreciate the most about Nyah is her kindness,” Burke said. “Even with her busy schedule, she is dedicated to her 92-year-old grandmother, assists with her care and helps get her to medical appointments. Nyah’s face lights up when she provides an update on her grandmother. She is making a positive difference in her grandmother’s life and those receiving her nursing care. Nyah has unlimited possibilities in a very bright nursing future.”

That future includes plans to eventually work in a hospital intensive care unit and enrolling in a graduate program with the goal of becoming a nurse anesthetist. Brooks will be presented with her diploma and her nursing pin by her mother, Rochelle, who is a professor of business at Viterbo.

“It was great having Nyah attend Viterbo,” Rochelle Brooks said. “She grew up on this campus, and Viterbo offered everything she wanted so I knew it would be a great fit for her. Nyah even tutored a business writing class that I teach for online students. With Nyah’s busy schedule, there were many days I did not see her much — between her classes, clinicals, dance practices and competitions, studying and her job, she was always on the go. She did stop by my office for advice or to chat sometimes, and she had a study area in my building that she used regularly.”

The elder Brooks has had many proud moments over the past four years.

“Watching her deal with injuries from dance but coming back to lead the NAIA as the Co-Dancer of the Year was truly incredible,” she said. “The persistence and the grit Nyah demonstrated was inspiring. Nyah is dedicated to everything she does — always giving 110%. She was able to balance academics and athletics and her persistence to improve in anything she does has been a key to her success — both as a student and an athlete. She leads by example and is a caring role model. She is amazing.”