Like many 18-years-olds, Nkechinyere Chidi-Ogbolu recently graduated. Unlike most 18-year-olds, however, she graduated from college.
“When I started college at the age of 14, it didn’t seem like anything really special to me,” said Chidi-Ogbolu, who was — surprise! — the youngest person in her 2017 graduating class. “I have always been the youngest in my class, so I didn’t think that it was a big deal. I was just going through college like everybody else was going through college.
“Academically, there wasn’t an issue with my age. But socially, people were more protective over me since I was so young.”
Chidi-Ogbolu applied to many colleges but chose Howard University in Washington D.C., an HBCU, for two reasons: They offered her a scholarship, and she wanted to be around people who looked like her and who she could better identify with.
“Everybody back home in Nigeria always mentioned Howard’s good reputation,” said Chidi-Ogbolu, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering. “Also, for me being so young, I wanted to be surrounded with familiar faces that related with my culture.”
Chidi-Ogbolu now plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of California, Davis. Her goal is to work in medical research in order to help people in her native Nigeria with medical issues.
“It’s very important to me to help people in Nigeria because we do get a lot of bad press,” Chidi-Ogbolu said. “I do want to take a lot of the knowledge that I get here back home. I can’t really say that I plan to immediately go back home to Nigeria, but I don’t plan to stay in the country either. I want to help the whole world, but Nigeria is my main focus right now.
“I like the idea of engineering because I like science. I’m interested in helping with health-related things,” she added. “To help out in medical areas, you don’t necessarily have to be a doctor and go to medical school. You can do a Ph.D. program at the University of California, Davis in something that is medical related. “