Getting out of your comfort zone

by Catalina Myers  |   

Sociology graduate and UAA track and field standout Tylantiss Atlas, UAA's fall 2022 commencement speaker.
Sociology graduate and UAA track and field standout Tylantiss Atlas will speak at UAA's fall 2022 commencement ceremony Sunday, Dec. 18, in the Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo courtesy, Tylantiss Atlas)

When Tylantiss Atlas was 10 years old, she started running track and field. Her persistence in mastering her sport earned her an athletic scholarship to run for UAA, and in 2018, Atlas left her home in Dallas, Texas, to travel more than 3,800 miles north. 

“I’m a firm believer of being in uncomfortable situations — I think they kind of mold you into the type of person you’re supposed to be — so I took a leap of faith, packed all my stuff and came to Alaska to see if it could wor,” said Atlas.

The leap of faith didn’t come without reservations. Despite the beautiful landscape, she questioned whether or not she’d made the right decision to leave her home and mom behind. But she stuck to her guns and decided to give Anchorage and UAA a shot. After a bumpy first year, Atlas said she finally started to feel comfortable with the help of track and field coaches, teammates and a few friends she’d made. 

“I can’t deny that it was hard, one of the hardest things I’ve chosen to do,” said Atlas. “Everything happens for a reason, but now looking back, I’m so happy I chose Alaska and UAA. It’s such an amazing school and I had a great experience.”

Tylantiss Atlas
UAA track and field standout Tylantiss Atlas earned many accolades during her time as a Seawolf, including NCAA All-American honors. (Photo courtesy Tylantiss Atlas)

In addition to her student-athlete status, Atlas worked for the University Police Department while also pursuing her bachelor’s degree in sociology. Throughout her four years at UAA, she was afforded opportunities to expand upon her degree through networking and engaging with her professors and peers, an experience she felt she wouldn’t have had at a larger university. Although she said her training as an athlete provided the discipline to persevere through early morning alarm clocks, long days attending class and studying on campus, working at UPD and indoor and outdoor track practices. 

“It was hard, but I knew there was going to be a huge win at the end,” Atlas said. “The professors at UAA are very understanding, they work with you and your schedule, they really want to see you succeed.”

Atlas said she’s always been driven, and her determination to overcome obstacles, whether on the track, in the classroom or in the workplace, comes from her deeply rooted faith and her mom. Being raised by a single mom, Atlas said she didn’t always have much growing up, and often she and her mom struggled to make ends meet. But despite life's challenges, her mother took her to every track practice, attended every meet and pushed her to work hard as an athlete and in school and her consistent love and encouragement pushed her to be the best version of herself.

“She saw something in me and believed in me — even when no one else did,” Atlas said. “But her love and support and my faith in God are the reason I push everyday to reach my goals.”

Atlas said she hopes to pass on this message in her graduation poem. In what little spare time she has, Atlas dedicates it to her budding music career. She decided to weave her love of music and rhythm to create a poem focusing on resilience and trusting the process, something she has learned through pursuing track and field and attending college in Alaska. 

“There’s always going to be a huge win behind the losses you take,” she said. “But it’s important to keep pushing no matter what because college is hard but life in general is hard — it doesn’t really get any easier. But the more that you elevate, the harder it gets.”

Atlas said she still has much to learn and plans on continuing to pursue her studies in sociology and earning a master’s degree. Despite the challenges Alaska handed her, she found a community to ground her and provide the support she needed to persevere. 

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