17-year-old Brockton High School senior and son of Nigerian immigrants Obinna Igbokwe got into seven out of the eight Ivy League schools this year, his latest feat in a lifetime full of already stellar accomplishments.
He narrowed his choice down to Harvard, Princeton, or Columbia for financial reasons. He has no preference between the 3 universities, Igbokwe said just before his May 1, 2016 decision deadline.
Because his parents are immigrants, Igbokwe said he has a new found appreciation of “what I came from” and how he can learn and grow from the hardship his parents experienced. They instilled a strong work ethic in him, pushing him to study hard, especially when he was younger.
“It gave me perspective. That perspective made me . . . capitalize on what I’ve been given.”
His parents were the main people to encourage him to aim high and apply for the Ivy League, he said. They convinced him to apply to every Ivy League school, because he was planning to apply to some colleges in California.
“They really supported me in terms of when I was younger, they made sure I had a good work ethic so later in life I could be able to ensure that I didn’t give up.”
Igbokwe said he aimed for an Ivy because of the additional resources available there, especially for his desired fields of study. He is yet to decide what his college major will be, but he is looking at biochemistry, biomedical engineering, or business and economics.
The hardworking young man hopes to be involved in innovation and entrepreneurship later in life. He wants to work for a company in the medical field and design something he can sell.
His extracurriculars and accomplishments set him up well for a standout career in this field. Igbokwe worked for the Massachusetts Coalition For Occupational Safety and Health in Boston, participated in the Global Youth Summit on the Future of Medicine, and has appeared at several state and regional science fairs.
Ironically, the first letter he got back from an Ivy was a rejection from Yale University. But he didn’t let that get him down.
“It didn’t make me feel discouraged, ’cause I had assumed that I would get rejected. There’s not guaranteed acceptance” he said.
After he got the seven other acceptances, he did not even tell many people, except his guidance counselor, family, and a few close friends. Instead, he continued to focus on playing the euphonium in his school’s concert band and working toward his International Baccalaureate diploma.
One moment that sparked this hard work ethic was a 40-mile backpacking trip with the C5 Youth Programs, a leadership organization Igbokwe has been a part of since seventh grade. He was navigating a group through the woods of Wyoming and had to keep them all safe. Instead of buckling under the pressure, he pushed on, turning the scenario into a life lesson.
“When you’re walking 5 miles [at a time] and you have everything that you own on your back in a backpack . . . and there are mosquitoes everywhere, it’s later at night, you don’t know where you’re going,” he said, “All you have to do is keep putting yourself forward. That’s how life is going to be.”
His mother, Chidimma Igbokwe, expressed pride and excitement for her son, as did the rest of the local Nigerian Igbo community from the Umuada Igbo organization. She thanked Brockton Public Schools for bringing out the best out of her son.
“Every time we hear about kids on drugs, kids with guns, but we never hear something good about Brockton,” Mrs Igbokwe said “Hopefully, I can open someone’s eyes to see that going to private school doesnt automatically make you a strong or good student…if you learn and concentrate you can make it…Whatever you do, try and be the best. That’s what we instil.”
Igbokwe, who has 4.6 grade point average, said he doesn’t hold a grudge against Yale University. He said it is more about the right fit, rather than qualifications.
The Ivy League-bound student said he is grateful for the education he received in Brockton, and is now looking forward to his collegiate opportunities.
“At one of these schools, I will have the opportunity to explore, A, more of my passions, and, B, to to more meaninful work inside the actual fields I plan to go into. It’s very exciting.”
More photos of Obinna below…
Source: Boston Globe/The Enterprise