As I think back on my journey to and through college as a young professional of color, I reflect on the challenges and triumphs of such a formative time in my development as a person. As the third and last daughter of Nigerian immigrants who came to the United States on educational visas, it was an expectation, not a hope for me to obtain a Bachelor’s degree. My mom often said, “I don’t care what you do after college – work in a restaurant, become a plumber, whatever you want, but you HAVE to go to college.” For her, the opportunity to get a college degree was about granting yourself the ability to become self-sufficient and independent.
I didn’t think much about what exactly I wanted to study or where I wanted to attend college until my junior year of high school. Many of the students in my AP courses would talk about going to faraway places like New York or Miami for college, and I began to imagine what it could look like for me, too, to escape my hometown and explore a new environment. The University of Washington had been at the top of my list for undergrad because my sister and both parents went there. But the Seattle rain and gloom were getting to me and I dreamt of soaking in some California sun while studying for midterms or writing essays. I applied for a slew of schools – private, public, in-state, out-of-state, and even Catholic. Ultimately I chose Pomona College because of the allure of sun, small class sizes, and a loan-free financial aid package.
Though attending Pomona didn’t turn out to be the dream I imagined it would be years prior, I did take away a few key lessons and made some lifelong friends. I learned to trust myself, question the status quo, and to be bolder and more discerning with how I expressed my voice. I gained confidence in my ability to be comfortable in spaces and conversations with people very much unlike myself. I even had the opportunity to spend a semester studying abroad in Havana, Cuba which was a life-shifting experience that will stay with me always.
Since graduating from undergrad, I have worked in a variety of places supporting young people in an array of stages in their educational and personal endeavors. From non-profits to higher education, and now to Mission High School, my journey has been incredibly rewarding and inspiring thus far. I look forward to my time working at ASAP and supporting the brilliant, passionate, hilarious and fascinating students we proudly serve everyday.
Note: ASAP at Mission High School (formerly Athletics Scholars Advancement Program) merged with Mission Graduates in July 2020. This article has been transferred to Mission Graduates’ website for archival purposes and reflects the work, vision, and stories of ASAP staff and students at the time of publication.