Ariyo Ojagbamila '14C

From Nigeria to St. John’s: Award-Winning Student Follows His “Calling”

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, to a life of poverty, Ariyo Ojagbamila ’14C refused to be defined by his circumstances. He was still a child when he resolved to spend his life helping needy residents of his homeland. To fulfill his dream, he traveled across the Atlantic for a quality education with a focus on service.

Today, Ojagbamila is a junior at St. John’s University, where he has distinguished himself as a Presidential Scholar majoring in Government and Politics. He is among the select group of students receiving a four-year, full-tuition scholarship. “It’s been quite a journey from Lagos to Queens,” he said. “I deeply appreciate the scholarship aid that allows me to pursue my bachelor’s degree.”

The University’s Vincentian mission, he noted, strengthens every student’s commitment to global social justice. “Life experience is a powerful teacher,” he said. “But my St. John’s education and the University’s mission have broadened my perspective. This is the ideal place for anyone who possesses a spirit of compassion and service”.

Ojagbamila demonstrates this spirit on campus as a leader in the Diversity Peer Educator Program. Sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the program provides personal mentoring in an atmosphere that recognizes students’ diverse economic and cultural backgrounds.

“Ariyo’s personal struggles motivate him to perform as a leader,” said Rosa C. Yen, Director of Multicultural Affairs. “He supports our efforts by facilitating diversity workshops on campus and throughout the surrounding community. Though he has less monetarily than the many individuals he serves, his humility and generosity of spirit have tremendous influence.”

Ojagbamila also has represented the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the United Nations Consortium Conferences, which explore issues of global poverty and human rights. “I have the opportunity to consider matters of great significance,” he said. “They include the promise of an educated life, the availability of clean water and the prevalence of human trafficking and political corruption.”

St. John’s Skull and Circle Honor Society—the highest academic honor in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences—has recognized Ojagbamila’s academic and leadership skills by selecting him as a member and officer. His journey will continue this summer at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He and a fellow St. John’s student, Shama Ams ’14C, have been awarded Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA) Fellowships to prepare for graduate study in the field. Only 35 undergraduates were selected from a nationwide pool of 492 applicants.

The fellowship brings Ojagbamila another step closer to realizing his goal: serving those in need around the world. The first person in his family to attend college, he has worked hard, balancing his education with up to three jobs to support his family. “It’s all worth it,” he said. “This is my calling, what I’ve always wanted to be. St. John’s has opened doors I never knew existed.”