Her Hardest Hustle

Nyla Smith is aware of her worth.
A natural born hustler, she wants the absolute most out of life. Her unmovable drive is her power and she refuses to allow anyone (or anything) to strip her of it. Not even life’s biggest challenges.

With gratitude and a wisdom that exceeds way beyond her years, Nyla is the embodiment of strength and inspiration. While undergoing chemotherapy, Nyla became the youngest person to receive a B.S. from St. John’s University. She was 19.

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“Hustle hard…it’s born out of all the good and bad in our lives,” Nyla shared. “It’s when you’ve decided that you want to be more than your situation. It doesn’t define you, you define you.”

Nyla was 15 when she was first diagnosed with a severe form of Crohn’s Disease- an inflammatory bowel disorder that affects the lining of the digestive tract.

“When I got diagnosed, I was missing school and getting behind in my curriculum,” she shared. “ They honestly tried to remove me from school.”

Nyla’s teachers, guidance counselors and deans all recommended homeschooling to best combat her symptoms. Now looking back, Nyla says she believes better solutions could have been identified.

“In order to find solutions, you have to understand the problem,” Nyla said. “I felt like they didn’t take the time to digest the problem and wanted to throw me away.”

Along with Crohn’s Disease, and, as of recently, Nyla has a nonverbal learning disability. She’s also challenged with Borderline Personality Disorder, a form of depression. Motivated by these challenges, Nyla started Hustle Hard Campaign -her own non-for-profit organization.

Adamant about shining light on her trials and triumphs, Nyla admits she once regretted how visible she was with her illness. That regret she says, inspired her to start the Invisible Illness challenge.

“I made myself visible,” she said. “I should have masked myself so no one knew what was going on with me.”

An online initiative, the challenge  encourages those battling an illness to post an online video, demasking themselves. The challenge aims to allow one to not be embarrassed and to showcase oneself in their rarest form.

With her family, Hustle Hard Campaign works to encourage and inspire the many who deal with various mental health and health issues. For Nyla, HHC is a way for her to ignite the same strength she has, in others.

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“I feel like I have to help people because I wish somebody would have helped me.”

Nyla attributes her unshakable strength to her parents. She recalls watching them handle financial hardships with dignity and tenacity.

I’m strong because I haven’t seen anything but strength,” she said. “I know what it’s like to keep fighting. That’s the rhythm I’ve always been in, the beat I’ve always rocked to.”

Of the numerous life-impacting projects, Nyla says there is one she holds closest to her heart. That is, creating free support groups for students with chronic illnesses.  

“I’ve literally cried at just the idea of it because that could have saved me,” she said. “In schools, they don’t accommodate students emotionally.”

With this anonymous group, students have the ability to express their burdens to a group led by a psychiatrist. And it’s with this project that Nyla hopes to replenish students excitement of school, despite their challenges. Because helping others is in fact, her proudest accomplishment.

“What I puff my chest out with pride about is doing this every day,” she said.  “I’ve been blessed with an optimism. No matter what, I don’t want people to see me but I do want them to see God.”

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