The first piece of advice is to take advantage of the opportunities afforded you. The second is to “pay if forward” whenever possible. Following one led her to Culver Academies, and the second has allowed her to put what she learned at Culver into action.
Ohiani-Jegede originally found out about the Batten Scholarship as an eighth-grader, but it was a week past the deadline. But she was determined to apply for the merit scholarship, so she kept her grades up during her freshman year of high school and applied to come in 2007 as a sophomore.
She went with the Leadership Committee for Africa group to South Africa during spring break of her sophomore year. While there, the group visited the prison where the government had held Nelson Mandela. The girls also visited and worked with the Christel House-South Africa. “I have never felt a place so filled with peace and hope,” she said.
Her junior year, she received a scholarship to travel to China with the Global Studies Institute during spring break. That provideded Ohiani-Jegede with the opportunity to stand on the Great Wall and live the “eye-opening experience” of being a woman of color in China.
She also remembers college advising director Corky Miller-Strong driving her to the South Bend airport to catch flights for different college visits and taking the classes taught by instructor Harry Frick as part of the Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur.
Her pay it forward lessons came while working to feed 3,500 children in Uganda for her senior service project and her involvement in Leadership Committee for Africa projects.
Today, since graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, she is continuing to pay it forward. While in college, she started tutoring kindergarten through 12th -grade students. and still does that in Chicago, where she lives now.
Ohiani-Jegede finished by reminding the Batten finalists that while her stories may seem random, there is a connecting thread. You benefit each time you take advantage of an opportunity. You gain by simply reaching out of your comfort zone, even if you fail. And when you invest your time and resources in others, the experience will not only impact the people you help but yourself as well.