Tyler's family instilled in him the value of a quality education from an early age.
"I come from a lower middle-class background; I grew up on the south side of Minneapolis, Minn. My mother raised me and my big brother, big sister ;and twin sister by herself since my dad passed away when I was very young. My father came from a migrant working family, and my mother came from a long line of doctors from Minnesota, so even though we were on welfare for the early period of my life, we still had a strong foundation that education was the key to success. My mother took night classes and worked full time but did not finish her bachelor's degree at University of California-Berkeley. But she was knowledgeable about how to maneuver through the system. This helped when I needed to advocate for myself for help.
"I always knew I needed to go to college, and I've always wanted to leave Minnesota and explore the world. My mother didn't like that idea, but I had to do it to become independent. My mom and big sister sat me down before I started high school and told me that I had to do well in high school in order to be eligible to get into a good college and get scholarships because she could not afford to pay for my education like some kids. Throughout high school I always remembered that talk, and I kept focused in school."
Tyler decided to take full advantage of his educational opportunities despite personal challenges.
"There are two main obstacles that have been tough to mitigate while in college. One is that I am away from home. Unlike most students at DePaul, I am not from Illinois and it is quite difficult not being able to see my family whenever I want. They are a part of me, especially my mom and twin sister. Our relationships have changed because of the distance, but it was good for me because it pushed me to grow up faster and become more self-sufficient and independent. I learned how to adapt to an environment a lot better than if I stayed in my safe bubble; I can now challenge myself to do things outside of my comfort level and take risks.
The other fundamental obstacle that applies to every area in my life is that I am diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. This has made it difficult to read social situations, maintain relationships (whatever the function) and to navigate social circles. This issue will never go away; it is a part of me. However, instead of letting it hold me down, I don't think about it too much and more so just put myself out there and try to be as friendly and charming as possible. I have come across many social situations where it has gotten me into some trouble, but in the grand scheme of things, my ability to take risks and put myself out there without fear of rejection has helped me."
"Being a McNair scholar means more to me than I can explain."
"McNair has connected me with many opportunities — one was an internship in Washington, D.C., working on Capitol Hill for Rep. Danny K. Davis while taking classes at Marquette University's Les Aspin Center for Government. Another opportunity was my summer research fellowship in the Leadership Alliance at Columbia University in New York where I conducted graduate-level research and presented my findings at two conferences. During that experience, I got to extensively understand what I want to study in graduate school and learned how to conduct quality research. Lastly, McNair sponsored me for a summer study abroad program in Fez, Morocco, where I studied Arabic for six weeks.
It has been a journey going through all of these programs and experiences through McNair. It is difficult for me to just separate my life and being a McNair scholar, everything I do now is because of something related to McNair: keeping a good grade point average, looking for research opportunities and applying to graduate schools. I have noticed that my identity now draws upon the tenants of the McNair program more than anything else I have been involved in because it has been fundamental to the trajectory of my life."
Tyler graduated from Columbia University in spring 2014 with a Master of Arts in Political Science. He is now an analyst for the section 8 housing voucher program for the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.