NEW PALESTINE — Nanika Sissoko encourages everyone to follow their path, and if they have a disability, to not let it get in their way.
That’s what she’s doing as she continues her involvement with and raises money for Miss Amazing, a program that teaches self-esteem, fulfillment and leadership skills to girls and women with disabilities.
“I want to make sure that people with disabilities and people without disabilities — they can make friendships and be involved,” Sissoko said.
The 20-year-old was motivated to first get involved with Miss Amazing because of her friend and fellow New Pal native, Lauren Black, who was crowned Indiana’s Miss Amazing Teen in 2016 at the age of 16.
Sissoko, who has a learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and hearing loss, said she enjoys Miss Amazing because she gets to make new friends from across the country. She’s going to the National Miss Amazing Summit in Nashville, Tennessee later this summer. She is raising funds for the organization as well at saq2021.funraise.org/fundraiser/nanika-sissoko.
Sissoko is also a state ambassador for Best Buddies, which fosters friendships, employment, leadership development and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
She competes in color guard and bowling in Special Olympics too.
In her spare time, she likes to draw, do graphic design and work with clay. She also enjoys cooking and watching movies, especially the Disney blockbuster “Frozen.”
Her mother, Ayanna Sissoko, said Miss Amazing and her daughter’s other activities have had a positive effect on her self-esteem.
“She’s got leadership skills now,” she said. “Everything that she gets involved in, she’s very passionate about. She’s very passionate about the stuff she believes in, and she just goes for what she wants, and I encourage her to do that.”
Anna Findley was one of Nanika Sissoko’s eighth-grade teachers at Greenfield Central Junior High School. She’s good friends with the mother of one of Sissoko’s friends, and the two continue to keep in touch years after their time in class together.
Findley has always found Sissoko to be very caring.
“Even when she was working in my classroom, she was always willing to help other people,” Findley said. “She was always very concerned if someone wasn’t doing very well, always willing to give an extra helping hand.”
As a special education teacher, Findley finds Miss Amazing’s mission valuable and is happy to learn of Sissoko’s involvement in it.
“Any way to teach our kiddos to be leaders and give back to the community I think is wonderful,” she said.