Andrew student is on a mission: help oppressed women in Nigeria
BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI Correspondent August 3, 2012 5:36PM
Etinosa Ogbomo will be a senior at Andrew High School in Tinley Park. Ogbomo was born in Nigeria and plans to become a gynecologist and return to her native country to practice medicine. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 7, 2012 6:00AM
When Etinosa Ogbomo joined the speech team at Andrew High School in Tinley Park, it was a fun pastime for her. It also helped bring the native Nigerian out of her shell.
It is more than that now for Ogbomo, who goes by “Te.” She uses her presence on the speech team as a means to educate her fellow students about a cause near to her heart: the female genital mutilation that is practiced in parts of the world, including Nigeria. And she just might make a career of helping oppressed girls and women there.
As a junior last school year, Ogbomo based a speech on “Desert Flower,” an autobiography by Somalian model Waris Dirie, and a speech by Dirie, who created the Desert Flower Foundation and has fought against female genital mutilation worldwide.
“I didn’t know this went on, and my mom told me it goes on in Nigeria all the time and that it has happened to people that I know,” Ogbomo said. “It is something that you can’t see (outwardly), so I wanted to draw more attention to it.”
Ogbomo earned first place with her speech in early competitions.
“But in sectionals, where it really mattered, I got fourth,” she said.
After high school, Ogbomo, 17, would like to attend the University of Illinois and eventually practice gynecology so she can help the oppressed women in Nigeria.
“I want to start an organization where I can adopt a little village in Nigeria and help the women in that village,” she said.
Ogbomo last visited her homeland when she was in fourth grade.
“I always wanted to be something in the medical field, but when I was last in Nigeria, I’d pass by people who didn’t have the same opportunities as me,” she said. “That’s when I decided I had to go back and help.”
Ogbomo, an honor student with a grade-point average of 3.148, became interested in speech team as a freshman. She competed in oratorical declamation, which uses a speech or parts of a speech previously given by another.
“I read a novel or speeches and combine them into a speech that is informative,” Ogbomo said.
Ogbomo moved to Tinley Park when she was 6. Prior to that, she attended a private school in Nigeria.
“(Moving) was really hard at first given the fact that I didn’t know anyone,” she said. “Then people started liking me because I had a funny accent.”
Ogbomo has noticed a cultural difference in how diversity is viewed.
“Back there, everyone was from different towns and we were all different people, but we were all Nigerians,” she said. “Here, it is very diverse because there are different countries and cultures, but I am one of the few opposed to everyone being the same as I am.”
Ogbomo credits her speech team experience for giving her a voice.
“I love it. It gets me out of my shell,” she said. “It is probably what made me a more outgoing person. Coming into high school, I was reserved. Now I love the competitions and the dedication it involves. It is a challenge that I like.”
Her other activities at Andrew include student council, Latin Club, DECA (a marketing and business class), fashion club, debate, theater and Voices of Andrew.
Ogbomo’s mentors are her parents, Toyin and Douglas Ogbomo.
“My greatest mentor is my mother, no doubt. She moved here after she was someone in Nigeria, and she has gone through so many changes and different occupations,” she said. “She had to go back to school and she’s still furthering her education. She is one of the strongest women I know and she teaches me to strive for the best and continues to push me.”
Her father also motivates her.
“Sometimes I’ll give up on what I’m doing and he’ll push me and tell me not to give up,” she said. “We moved to America so we could have a better life, and he sacrificed so much. I know coming here was not easy.”
Ogbomo is determined to accomplish her goals, if only as a tribute to her parents’ strength.
“When I want to give up on what I’m doing, I think how they never gave up, and I keep going,” she said. “Because if I stop what I’m doing, my life stops, too. I have to keep going because if I give up, everyone else can too and we wouldn’t be anywhere.”