The Fast and the Studious

During her most recent trip to Nigeria in 2013, Nwaopara and her cousin Ann dress up in traditional outfits in preparation to go to festival (Photo credit: Betram Nwaopara).

During her most recent trip to Nigeria in 2013, Nwaopara and her cousin Ann dress up in traditional outfits in preparation to go to festival (Photo credit: Betram Nwaopara).

Family oriented, athletic, and a leader are just some of the words that describe senior Ogechi Nwaopara. As a first generation Nigerian-American, Nwaopara is the oldest of three siblings and the first to be born in America. She is 100 percent  Nigerian, and although she does not speak her parents’ native language of Igbo, she can understand it fluently.

Although Nwaopara was born in the U.S., she did not always attend school here. In the summer of third grade Nwaopara moved to Nigeria, where she attended boarding school for six months.

“Going to school in Nigeria was a huge awakening for me,” said Nwaopara. “I realized how good it is to be a kid in the states because most kids in Nigeria learn how to be independent at such a young age.”

For Nigerian parents especially, school is a very important factor, and they expect their children to work hard and achieve top marks.  The school curriculum is strict, and assignments are challenging, but students work together to help each other pass classes.

“I would do it again,” said Nwaopara, “and maybe even stay longer because I learned so much that shaped me into who I am today.”

Although she moved back to the states in the fourth grade, Nwaopara and her family visit Nigeria every other year around Christmas time.

Family is very important in the Nigerian culture, and the Nwaopara family is no exception. Nwaopara’s parents took in her two cousins, fellow Mercy senior Ann Mark and her brother Michael Mark, after moving to the U.S. in order for them to attend school in America. Nwaopara has two younger brothers in addition to the Marks siblings,  making her former family of five a family of seven.

“After I came back from boarding school in Nigeria, [the Marks] came to visit us over the summer,” said Nwaopara.  “Our parents thought it would be a great idea if they attend[ed] school in America with me. It is like another set of siblings.”

Nwaopara previously attended public school all her life and heard about Mercy through a cousin who was going to the school. She ended up choosing Mercy not only for the education but also for the food.

“After I heard about all the opportunities that Mercy provide[d], I became pretty interested,” said Nwaopara. “But, it was after I shadowed and had my first Kickin’ Chicken that sealed the deal!”

As a senior, Nwaopara is involved in numerous activates and leadership positions. She is a link leader, a participant of quiz bowl, senior class president, B.A.S.E  president, track and field captain, and even works for the Marlin Shop.

“I… wonder how my head hasn’t exploded by now.” said Nwaopara. “Of course there are times when I feel that I’ve lost it or… can’t do something, but then I realize why I chose to participate in all my activities and my passion for each one. I know whenever things get too hectic there is always someone there to help me out.”

Nwaopara is a busy girl, but in her free time she enjoys eating Chipotle and watching Netflix, usually simultaneously. Although she is involved in many in school activities,  Nwaopara also runs for a track club outside of school.

“ I do this because even though I hate running, I love track which sounds absolutely crazy,” said Nwaopara. “I chose to run outside of Mercy during my off season not only to better myself for the spring season but because I love the passion and work [that I] put in for each track meet.”