May 26, 2017


the top spot in your class is a feat for any high school student, but for
Blessing Ajoke Olagundoye, earning valedictorian is the result of efforts more
extraordinary than most. It started halfway around the world.


“My mom was
always encouraging me in Nigeria and I didn’t want to disgrace her,” said


She recalls a
difficult life in her African homeland, one that was full of uncertainty and
where education isn’t a right, but a very expensive privilege — especially for
girls. In Nigeria, educating girls is more costly than sending boys to schools,
according to Blessing.


“We were
poor. We had to work in the farm so we could go to school. I sold corn, mangos
and oranges,” she said. “It was so stressful because my mom would tell me if
she had to not eat, she would do anything so I could go to school.”


Eighteen months
ago, her family moved to the United States where she started Northwest
Community High School in her junior year. 
They no longer had to worry about having enough money to pay for school.


“Life here
is a lot less stressful. The teachers here are so kind; they helped me adjust
to everything here,” said Blessing. “I’m so thankful and grateful to them.”


Her rigorous
education in Nigeria combined with strong support at Northwest set her on a
path to success in Indiana, where she has achieved top status in her graduation


“When they
told me I was valedictorian, I said, ‘What does that mean?’ They said, ‘You’re
number one.’ I was so happy,” said Blessing, who has a 3.97 GPA.


She will study
pediatric medicine at IUPUI (on the Purdue track) in the fall and plans to attend medical school. It’s
a desire that was born out her experiences in Nigeria.


“Even when I
was sick in Nigeria, I had to work in the fields. I had to go to school because
healthcare is too expensive. I want to help other children so they can become a
better citizen,” said Blessing.


Her key to
success and advice to others?


“You should
not rest after your first victory because if you fail in your second, they’ll
think it’s just luck. Don’t rest, don’t relax, just always work hard,” said