While growing up in Nigeria, Chioma Oghenekome’s parents divorced when she was 8 years of age. Chioma, her mother, and two siblings found themselves homeless. Her mother worked a number of jobs, while Chioma took care of her younger siblings. She cooked, collected firewood, and fetched water daily, while also managing to stay on top of her studies. As Chioma was graduating from high school, her family was relocated to the United States.
As soon as they arrived, Chioma’s family quickly took advantage of the opportunities that were available to them in their new community. For example, Chioma enrolled at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island, and her mother and brother soon followed suit. Despite serving in a “head of household” role since she was a teenager, Chioma was able to focus on her studies and excelled as a college student. Her commitment and resiliency helped her progress from remedial to college level math, while maintaining a 3.8 grade point average and discovering a sense of community at Suffolk. Chioma soon began to use her own experience to support fellow students. As a Peer Mentor, she assisted with New Student Orientation, and helped students transition to college by teaching them about campus clubs and services available to them at Suffolk County Community College. In addition, Chioma served as Vice President for Service for Phi Theta Kappa, where she was responsible for creating and planning service projects for her peers.
Earlier this year, Chioma’s hard work in the classroom and in the community truly paid off. In January, she was named a semifinalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s prestigious Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. In April, she earned the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, and in May she was chosen as one of two recipients of ATD’s Harvey Lincoln Student Scholarship. Chioma was honored for the Harvey Lincoln Scholarship on May 14 during Suffolk County Community College’s Recognition Banquet, and will receive a $1,000 award to apply to any cost related to attending college, including tuition, fees, books, supplies, or living expenses.
“Chioma is a shining example of the talent and promise that is within each of us,” stated ATD Senior Vice President Carol Lincoln, whose late husband Harvey is honored through the scholarship fund. “Suffolk County saw that promise in Chioma, and the college provided the supports that have helped her succeed.”
ATD president and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout said, “I’m so proud to have the opportunity to recognize Chioma, an amazing student who doesn’t let even the toughest obstacles stop her from pursuing her goals. Harvey knew that every community college has students like Chioma, and we want to lift them up – and Harvey – through this Scholarship Fund.”
Perhaps fittingly, Chioma’s time at Suffolk County Community College drew to a close on May 23 when she was chosen as student commencement speaker. Chioma will transfer to Adelphi University in the fall to pursue a nursing degree, and she will undoubtedly remain a leader and inspiration to her new peers.