Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

MLK Scholarship Winner Chiamaka Okorie on Finding Her Light at BC

Every year, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Scholarship is awarded to a Boston College junior for demonstrating exemplary qualities of leadership, community service, exceptional academic achievement, and involvement with African American issues. Last month, Connell School of Nursing student Chiamaka Okorie, one of four finalists, was awarded the scholarship.

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Photo courtesy of Chiamaka Okorie

As an eager freshman, Okorie began her involvement at BC in Black Student Forum, a group she says, “really helped me find my voice and my confidence being a black student on campus.” Now, as the group's Vice President, Okorie aims to establish forums and events around what students are struggling with as well as advocate important social and political issues on campus.

The summer of her freshman year, Okorie participated in Jamaica Magis, a service immersion program through the Campus School of Ministry with the mission of engaging in service, reflecting, and building a sense of community while learning about the social and political life in Jamaican culture. This past winter she became a student leader for the trip, a testament to her continuous dedication.

Okorie’s enthusiastic involvement with Residential Life as an RA has also proven to be an important part of her BC experience. “Being an RA has been an amazing opportunity,” she says. “I’ve been with freshman for the past few years, and it’s the most important thing to give me perspective on BC and give back to the community.”

Additionally, Okorie's intention to enter the nursing field after graduation led her to join the KILN Council, which stands for The Keys to Inclusive Leadership in Nursing. “KILN was in part a scholarship for books, scrubs, and other various nursing items, but also an academic and leadership formation that inspired me and allowed me to widen my horizons as a nurse,” says Okorie.

I want to be meaningful, grow, see a different part of myself, and become a stronger woman.

Okorie’s active involvement extends even beyond BC; sparked by her interest in women’s and global health, Okorie traveled to Ghana last summer for a health and education initiative to conduct research on malaria prevention for mothers and children.

“You have to have a sense of joy,” says Okorie. “These are things that bring me joy.”

Much of her joy, drive, and ambition is predicated upon the support she receives from her family.

“My mom is a huge source of inspiration for me," Okorie says. "She has single-handedly raised me and my three siblings for over a decade. Whenever I went home and it was challenging, she had so much strength, and I had to have my own strength. Being at BC gave me that.”

While these instances of her extracurricular participation on campus only encapsulate a mere slice of her involvement at BC, they demonstrate Okorie’s steadfast commitment to her education, dedication to her community, and overall growth in making her college experience worthwhile. The incentive to dedicate her time and effort so zealously is understood with the goal she has in mind for her undergraduate experience.

“My personal motivation is I can’t do four years [of college] and wait for graduation to get my diploma. I want to be meaningful, grow, see a different part of myself, and become a stronger woman,” Okorie says.

On winning the award, Okorie reponds by saying: “I feel very honored, standing along the four other nominated students who have found a way to shape their experience into something meaningful. We all shared that same goal.”

A meaningful experience indeed--Okorie rightly offers an important lesson to her fellow BC undergrads.

“It is really important to say you haven’t become who you are going to be," she says. "Really take this time to discern what is important to you and where you want to be. The school really is what you make of it. I’ve changed a lot in terms of my appreciation and understanding of BC. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and introduce myself to new people.”

An ardent student and an inspirational example to students and post-grads alike, Okorie continues her relentless pursuit of her passions within and beyond the BC community, ultimately leading to her current achievements and growing success. “I was first attracted to people who found their light at BC,” reveals Okorie, “and that helped me find my own light.”

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