This fall, Grade 12 Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute (CHCI) student Jomi Oyediran will be taking a major step toward achieving her lifelong goal of becoming a lawyer.

Having been accepted to a number of U.S. universities, she has decided to pursue a degree in Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. To help support her studies, Oyediran has been awarded The Capstone Scholarship, for academic excellence, which will provide $60,000 over four years.

“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was 10 years old,” said Oyediran. “My dad would have me talk to lawyers at his work and I would be able to see what business law is like and that was something that interested me.”

Finding her voice & building community at CHCI

With her beaming smile and bubbly, positive attitude, it’s hard to believe Oyediran ever felt out of place at school. As a student in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, Oyediran has built a reputation for being a passionate, inspirational leader, but it took time for her to find her voice.

When she first arrived at CHCI in Grade 9, Oyediran said she felt overwhelmed by the number of other students. When she heard about the school’s Black Student Union (BSU), she knew she wanted to join. After convincing a friend to come with her, she attended the first get-to-know-you meeting.

“I was shy. I barely talked that day,” said Oyediran. “But even just being there, there was something about the presence of being surrounded by like-minded students and having a community that was starting to be built that year, that was very important for me. That became my safe place.”

In Grade 10, Oyediran’s confidence grew further, after her poem, “Just a Young Black Girl”, was showcased during the school’s Black History Month assembly. Originally written as a class assignment, the poem made waves among the teaching staff, and Jomi was invited to record a video performing the poem, to be shown at the assembly.

“I was very vulnerable in that poem, so I was scared to show it at the assembly. But that really changed the whole trajectory of my high school career and gave me a lot of confidence to be myself,” said Oyediran. “It gave me validation that people in the school really do care about my voice.”

Recently, Oyediran took her talent for writing poetry one step further and published a book of poetry, featuring a collection of poems that reflects her personal experiences.

Oyediran’s sense of confidence also grew through class discussions in History class with teacher Fraser Haig. She noted how Haig always encouraged students to share their thoughts and opinions on world events, and this helped her to feel like her voice was valued.

“I am always impressed by her effort and her contributions to class discussions,” said Haig. “Through grace, kindness and empathy, Jomi builds bridges and helps bring people together to seek greater understanding.”

As her sense of confidence grew, Oyediran has taken on a leadership role in the school community. For the past two years, Oyediran has served as co-president of the school’s Black Student Union. In this role, she’s organized a number of events to help cultivate a sense of community among Black students and address important issues facing the school’s Black community.

“[Being BSU co-president] has taught me so much, how to interact with people, how to lead students, how to communicate with teachers…and admin as well”, said Oyediran.

In Grade 11, Oyediran was also a part of CHCI’s Equity Committee, led by teacher Joshua Hill. The committee was comprised of staff, students, parents and community members with the goal of making the school a more equitable place.

“Jomi is a once-in-a-career student. Her infectious joy draws people to her,” said Hill.

He noted her instrumental work on the Equity Committee, in particular a listening and engagement event for parents and caregivers of Black students at CHCI.

“It was through her leadership that we were able to facilitate a meaningful evening of building connections and soliciting important feedback,” said Hill.

“Our CHCI community has benefited from her leadership,” echoed CHCI teacher and guidance counsellor Pat Timms. “She always makes time to help provide thoughtful student perspectives on school issues.”

Following her dreams in Washington

Taking part in the IB program at CHCI motivated Oyediran to pursue her post-secondary education outside of Canada.

“I would always joke with my friends, ‘It would be funny if I don’t apply internationally if I’m doing this rigorous program,’” said Oyediran.

An avid follower of U.S. news and politics, as she started to think more about applying to university, Oyediran set her sights on American universities.

Her research on American universities with strong Political Science programs led her to Howard University, and the school’s location in the U.S. capital was the deciding factor in accepting a spot at the school.

“When I look at American politics, I find it so fascinating,” said Oyediran. “Howard is the perfect place because they have a lot of internships and they’re in Washington, D.C.”

After undergrad, Oyediran plans to attend law school. She’s not sure what type of lawyer she wants to be yet, but she knows for sure that she wants to work to help others and create positive change, as she’s done during her time at CHCI.

Categories: Feature