Looking back at the first 20 years of my life, I can definitely say I’ve been blessed.

 

I’m blessed to have parents from Nigeria who didn’t have the opportunity to get a higher education in their home country. And so, coming to the U.S. in the 1990s, they made sure their kids — my younger brother, my three younger sisters and I — knew the value of college.

 

I was fortunate to have a racially and ethnically diverse upbringing, starting in the predominantly black neighborhood in East Nashville, Tennessee, where I was born, and continuing to the Nashville suburbs, where I attended elementary school, middle school and high school. My classmates were white, Asian, Hispanic and African American. I never had the challenge of being the “only black,” and I’ve been competing with students from diverse backgrounds for so long that it’s natural to me now.

 

I was fortunate to have a natural liking and talent for math and science, and, unlike many black kids in this country, I had pre-engineering and engineering courses at my high school, as well as teachers and counselors who steered me toward an engineering career. My high school also connected me with an internship at Meharry Medical College, when I was looking hard at a career in medicine. One of my mentors in the program told me about NSBE. So when I decided a medical career wasn’t for me, I had another good option in mind, engineering, and an organization to help me get there.

 

NSBE has been great. I joined the Society as soon as I got to campus as a freshman at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. It’s given me a great network of like-minded individuals: black men and women who want to be successful engineers and great people. It’s also given me a group of people I consider my closest friends, because we’re all taking the same classes and can talk about the same challenges. NSBE also gives us the opportunity to socialize and have fun with each other, and go to conferences where we can meet with employers about internships and potential full-time jobs. And of course, NSBE gives us access to exclusive scholarships, such as the ExxonMobil Corporate Scholarship I received last spring. 

 

I heard about the scholarship from our NSBE chapter advisor, who’s also UT Knoxville’s Multicultural Engineering Program director and a mentor and friend to me. I didn’t wait until the last minute to complete the application. I worked on it for maybe 30 minutes to an hour every day for two or three weeks, so I could make sure my essays were strong. And the work paid off: the scholarship grant helped pay for my school fees, so my parents didn’t have to come out of pocket for any expenses.

 

The internship that comes with the scholarship was a great experience. The ExxonMobil workplace culture is definitely fast-paced and competitive, which I like, and the people at ExxonMobil were very respectful of the interns and our time and were willing to help us. One of the reasons I chose mechanical engineering as my major is that it’s so broad and gives me access to opportunities in so many different fields. But after my good experience with ExxonMobil, I’ve narrowed my choices and made the oil, gas and energy sector one of my top two.
 

I know NSBE is a big reason for the academic success I’ve had in college. I’ve never relied on being the smartest person in class, but I’ve always been dedicated, worked hard and tried to surround myself with people who would help me achieve. My GPA is 3.81 right now, and I’ve been a dean’s list student my entire time at UTK.

 

I feel very good about my future, and I look forward to giving back. There are so many people — I can’t name them all — who’ve helped get me to where I am, whether it was my parents for the way they raised me or my teachers for guiding me and critiquing me, or the members of my church, the members of NSBE or the employees at ExxonMobil. And that’s what I’m thankful for. Now, I want to be that mentor for others. I want to be able to help younger people as I was helped, so they can have the opportunities that I have.


Looking back at the first 20 years of my life, I can definitely say I’ve been blessed.

 

I’m blessed to have parents from Nigeria who didn’t have the opportunity to get a higher education in their home country. And so, coming to the U.S. in the 1990s, they made sure their kids — my younger brother, my three younger sisters and I — knew the value of college.