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Meramec Campus

Yakubu Stares down Fears, Now Ready to Follow Her Passion

Ngohile Yakubu, who graduates in May, has earned approximately $32,000 in scholarship funds to attend Saint Louis University in the fall.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” -- Eleanor Roosevelt

St. Louis Community College student Ngohile Yakubu could have let fear defeat her. But, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, Yakubu found the strength to do what she feared she could not. As a result, Yakubu will be attending Saint Louis University next fall to study nutrition and dietetics.

Yakubu admits to being fearful of many things. She and her family moved from the Benue state in Nigeria to the United States in 2013 because of better educational opportunities. Fear nearly paralyzed Yakubu. She was new to the country, new to college, did not know what to expect, and had no friends.

“I didn’t have a career plan because of fear of not doing what I love,” Yakubu said. “I see myself as jack of all trades and having to pick one was a problem for me. My cousin (whose family had already moved to the states) suggested that I start my college here at STLCC because it is a lot cheaper and more adapting for me to make that transition to the American system. After two years and a semester here at STLCC, I sure believe she was right.”

Yakubu, now 21, spent an entire year at STLCC’s Meramec campus without going to the library because of fear. She eventually found refuge in the Meramec Academic Center, and gained friends by engaging in student activities. 

“The Academic Center was my refuge five days a week. Because my mom was taking night classes at Meramec, I would stay in the Academic Center and work on my homework, and also get help from the amazing staff in there whenever I needed it. I met Cindy Clausen there, and thanks to her, I’m a better person. She was always friendly and welcoming whenever I came to the Academic Center.”

Clausen, the acting manager of academic support at Meramec, noted that in the first 10 days of the 2013 fall semester, Yakubu had visited the Academic Center 13 times. Most students, she said, barely consider cracking open their books.

“Ngohile was shy and so focused on school work that I suspected she was avoiding other students,” Clausen said. “Later she told me that that was the case and her sense of missing out and wanting friends drove her to seek a job on campus and join the International Club. Even with a strong work ethic, the challenge of coming to a new country – studying and learning in a different language, leaving friends and places one knows – is a huge barrier. Her academic performance notwithstanding, Ngohile brings positivity and an encouraging spirit to all those she interacts with at Meramec. I am honored that she named us as having helped her along the way.” 

In addition to the International Club, Yakubu also served on the Student Activities Council and participated in service learning. She also works part time in the Career and Employment Services office at Meramec. Through these activities, Yakubu met new people and gained confidence.

“Last semester, I took on the responsibility of becoming the president of the International Club after helping with the banquet,” she said. “I didn’t realize it would be such a responsibility. It was a huge share of balancing between leadership and studies, but I didn’t give up.”

At the beginning of this semester, Yakubu applied to and was accepted to both SLU and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Because of her academic success and involvement in student activities, Yakubu has received approximately $32,000 in scholarship funds to attend SLU.

“I clearly knew that my parents were not going to afford paying for SLU, but my leadership and involvement alongside the hard work and effort paid off,” Yakubu said.

In addition to working on campus, Yakubu recently got a part-time job – although not the job she had applied for – at Kindred Health Services in Chesterfield.

“I was job hunting and I applied for a hospital cleaning position at Kindred Health Services,” Yakubu said. “Later that day, I received a phone call saying that I didn’t have cleaning experience so I won’t get the job. However, they had a position in the dietary section, which they asked if I was interested. I accepted, had an interview and got the job. My duties will be serving patient in the rehab center who have specific dietary restriction and making sure they are eating according to their nutritional needs. This job will really give me an insight in the field of nutrition and dietetics.”

Ironically, the interviewer is a registered dietitian who is a SLU graduate.

Yakubu will earn her associate degree in general transfer studies in May. So after facing her fears and achieving success, Yakubu is ready to follow her passion.

“I love healthy living and also educating others on how to better make the choices from the variety of options we have to choose from when it comes to food,” she said. “I grew up in a small town were many people survive on a meal a day, and it would be my joy to one day help such people learn sustainable ways to preserve and store healthy foods.”