Ike: A change in motivation

“Pathways taught us something we couldn’t learn anywhere else.”

Back in the day, at a Pathways to College session, if longtime Scholars asked newbie Ike why he was there, he would’ve honestly said it was because of the free food.

Ike, now 30, smiles and laughs when he makes that confession. He also admits today that soon after becoming a part of the program, he found much more nourishment than just for his stomach.

“I was from [the] West Side in Newark and Pathways was the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Ike, who lives in Dallas and works as an independent contractor who specializes in engineering, specifically electric vehicles. “Pathways was the place that kept you safe after school. It broadened our horizons.”

Before Ike was born, his parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria. His family’s ethnic heritage is Igbo, a group numbering about 35 million, constituting roughly 15 percent of Nigeria’s population of 215 million. Ike is the youngest of three siblings. One of his older sisters is an attorney and the other is a physician.

In high school, shortly after Ike started attending Pathways sessions —many of his friends already were Scholars — he says he started “dragging in” other friends from outside the program.

“We all got to bond,” Ike recalls. “I remember Pathways most for my senior year, but it had all grades of Scholars. When you start, you get to see other Scholars going through the college application process and see what they went through. I started making connections and meeting good people.”

As that happened and as he matured, Ike began acquiring the skills in Pathways that primed him for making the journey to higher education successfully.

“Pathways taught us something we couldn’t learn anywhere else — how to communicate with college interviewers,” Ike says. “Learning that and going on college visits elevated my expectations of what college would be.”

Ike was part of a trip to Washington D.C., during which Scholars visited prestigious universities such as American, Catholic, Georgetown, and Howard. On another Pathways trip, he toured Princeton University. On that visit, Ike says, he finalized writing his personal statement for his college applications.

Before graduating East Side, Ike chose to enroll at Loyola University Chicago. He started feeling the pull of home, though, and finished his undergraduate studies at Thomas Edison State University in Trenton, NJ, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal science.

After graduation, Ike worked as a systems engineer for a major telecommunications company. He deeply loves cars and enjoys working on engineering electric ones, but Ike is setting his sights on another big challenge — applying to medical school. Thanks to his time as a Pathways Scholar, Ike says he learned another essential skill that will help him.

“Pathways gave us discipline and deadlines,” says Ike, while holding up a thick, Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) practice test book he’ll be hitting hard in preparation for taking the exam next year. “Public schools don’t teach students discipline, they don’t teach you how to study, and they don’t teach you that if you go to college, you’re going to be around other smart kids.”

Ike says he’s highly eager to share his high school, college, and post-college experiences with current Pathways Scholars, either one-on-one, or in a group setting, to be a mentor.

“It would be my dream,” Ike says.

“Having to learn in an urban neighborhood is always difficult. I’m from the roughest part of Newark, my parents didn’t make much money, and I still went to college. I would tell Pathways Scholars: Don’t give up and don’t let your circumstances define you.”