From the time she was a young girl Jemima Okanlawon had a passion to help others, and through her studies at the University of Alberta in Electrical Engineering, she’s been able to start fulfilling those dreams.
As one of 20 recipients of the RBC Future Launch Scholarships for Black Youth, Okanlawon is thrilled to have one less worry as she pursues her studies.
“Having this support from the scholarship has really been just a huge weight off my shoulders because it’s letting me focus fully on my education instead of wondering how to fund it, or having to worry about paying off tuition,” said Okanlawon. “I’m very thankful for this opportunity and for this scholarship.”
The 19-year-old credits her father, who has a master’s in engineering and recently completed his doctorate in theology, as a huge source of inspiration. Seeing his hard work, perseverance and devotion to his family serves as a daily reminder of what can be accomplished.
The pandemic has been hard on Okanlawon’s family as her father has been out of work. The scholarship comes at a perfect time.
As a Black female Okanlawon acknowledges there will be challenges, but it’s those challenges that fuel her desire to make a difference.
“I would also like to be a mentor for people who are younger and to show other Black girls, even those who are younger, that it is possible to do well in this field and that there are people doing it.”
As a child Okanlawon suffered from sickle cell anemia and was often hospitalized. In many ways her time in hospital showed her firsthand how she could help others and it’s why she wants to focus on biomedical engineering in the future.
“The struggle that I had in my own health was what really made me set on the field of biomedical engineering,” said Okanlawon. “It’s absolutely what I want to do in life, and I believe that it’s a very impactful field. It’s growing so fast every day and there’s so much potential for the technology that can be created.”
The significance of being selected as a recipient of the RBC Future Launch Scholarships for Black Youth goes far beyond the financial support for the third-year student.
“It honestly means so much to me that RBC notices me and they see the work I’m putting in and want to support me. It really means a lot because one, it’s encouraging me to keep working hard and it’s encouraging me in the sense that there are people out there who want to support me and who want to see me succeed.”
The Black Youth scholarship is made possible through donations from the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch—a 10-year, $500 million commitment to empower Canadian youth for the jobs of tomorrow. With a focus on networking, skills development, practical work experience and mental wellbeing supports and services, the initiative aims to help break down the barriers facing young people.
To view the complete list of scholarship recipients, learn more or view full eligibility requirements, visit: rbc.com/futurelaunchscholarships.
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Tagged: Equity, diversity and inclusion