"How Oakton Community College Has Changed My Life"

Clementina Ejiofor, Oakton Community College
2015 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest Winner

I began my journey at Oakton Community College in spring 2013. Looking back at who I was, I would say being a student at Oakton has brought out the best in me.

I moved to the United States with my mom from Ibadan, Nigeria, in September 2012 with the goal of becoming a successful nurse. Back home in Nigeria, I survived with little help, and I was not an outspoken student. I promised myself that when I moved here that I would look for an opportunity to become a successful student who could someday be a role model.

Oakton Community College student Clementina Ejiofor accepts her $500 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarship.

Oakton Community College student Clementina Ejiofor accepts her $500 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarship.
As a first-generation student, I had no idea of what college life was like. My aunt chose Oakton for me, saying "It's a good school my son attends." She knew very little about what steps were necessary to achieve my goal of becoming a nurse.

I started off my first semester in the spring with three classes. My aunt paid for them so I could not afford to take more classes or even to buy all my books. She had other family responsibilities because my mom was not working at that time. I wanted to be a student who went 奏hrough' school and not one who just 叢assed' through school. In my first semester at Oakton, I attended different workshops organized by different departments because I was looking to learn the ways of becoming a successful student. I heard about TRiO and the Emerging Leaders Program, which I became part of.

With the help of my TRiO advisor, I was able to learn about different ways to pay for college. I applied for financial aid and scholarships, which I was awarded, and these have helped me throughout my time at Oakton. I went on different trips, such as college transfer fairs, drama shows, and leadership conferences. The leadership conference I attended with TRiO was quite educating and motivational, especially the session titled "S.W.A.G. (Students With Academic Growth)." I got back to Oakton with the idea of hosting a workshop to inspire the students the way I had been. I organized the workshop with the Oakton jOURney Peer Mentor team; it was given at both campuses in 2014. This workshop was quite successful, and I received positive comments from students and staff who attended this event. As part of TRiO, I received a scholarship; I currently work as a Peer Mentor in this program. I help to recruit eligible students and also serve to help TriO students become aware of the resources available to them inside and out of the TriO program. I encourage and guide these students in meeting their needs at Oakton.

I became confident in standing up for who I am through the Emerging Leaders Program. It also became a foundation for success and has given me numerous leadership experiences. These began when Ann Marie Barry (Director of Student Life) nominated me to apply to become an Orientation Leader in summer 2013. I became a Peer Mentor in fall 2013, Orientation Team Lead in summer 2014, and am currently Peer Mentor Team Lead. In these positions, I have supported and advised students and my fellow team members. I look at myself as an example for people to look up to because I have assisted, encouraged and helped students with different decision-making processes and also supported students in emotionally difficult situations. I have celebrated their successes with them, which also reminds me that I could be celebrated some day, and this makes me work harder.

During my second semester at Oakton in fall 2013, I co-founded the African Student Club with some African students. Since we created the club, I have helped to organize many great events, like "Taste of Africa" and "Christmas in Africa" and more. Currently I have taken the position as president of this club. Apart from working at Oakton and different leadership positions, I have volunteered with the alumni phone callings and other opportunities that worked with my schedule.

Being a student at Oakton, I have gained both professional skills and personal skills, which has helped me in my jobs and outside of Oakton. I have grown from a girl who gets angry at little situations to a lady who learned to keep calm and look for solutions on how to handle issues rather than raising alarms. I have also received comments from my supervisor Anthony M. Ramos, which explains my growth from being a jOURney member. Some of the strengths he highlighted were my high level of professionalism, intentionality in work with students, ability to form a team and lead by example, strong work ethic, and ability to work independently. I wouldn't have been able to achieve all these strengths without the services at Oakton.

When I started Oakton, I had no idea who I would become. I have started here and can go anywhere with confidence and future well set. Being part of a community college isn't a "small deal," as some people regard community college. Oakton has definitely helped to give my personal and career life a firm foundation.