In the Employee Spotlight we aim to recognize a Youth Service, Inc. employee making an impact in the communities we serve. Donique Highsmith works in the Truancy Intervention and Prevention Service (T.I.P.S.) program at Youth Service, Inc.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Most people know me as Nikki and, believe it or not, I was truant in high school. If there was a truancy court back then I would have definitely been there. I was absent about 60 days in my 11th and 12th grade years. I did make honor roll, had a job and was selected as Who’s Who Among High School students. I decided not to apply to any colleges but got accepted to quite a few. Graduating was expected in my family, but I still became comfortable with not going to school.

I went on to college, not doing well my first year. I handed in all of my assignments, got excellent grades on those assignments, but I didn’t go to class and attendance counted so I failed every class. My GPA was nonexistent! I had to retake every class from my freshman year.  Having to go before the academic probation board changed my course and I began going to class, did my work, graduated, and here I am.

That’s me. In many ways I am no different than the families I work with. I can relate because I was a truant student. I use life lessons to hopefully help others not repeat what I know are mistakes.

Q: How long have you been working at YSI in the TIPS program?

This month is my 2-year anniversary with YSI in the Truancy Intervention and Prevention Services program.

Q: Why do you think the TIPS program is important?

It’s important because it sheds light on just how prevalent truancy is throughout our city. There are many reasons why a child may be truant – from the family, to the community, to the school. TIPS helps to connect those entities so that hopefully the truancy will decrease. I believe truancy will always exist, there will always be a student that is absent from school. But programs like TIPS can help decrease what is currently a serious problem in our communities.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at YSI in the TIPS program?

Staff support is what makes YSI’s TIPS program most enjoyable. No one person can do everything by themselves. We’re able to reach out to our co-workers, supervisors and director if needed. Having that support is needed and definitely appreciated.

To learn more about the TIPS program, please contact Erica Makowski at 215-848-6200, x1012 or