Sumwen: Finding that something extra

Sumwen found herself setting an example for her younger Pathways peers. As a high school senior, she said, “I’m able to help them prepare for their senior year.”

By her own admission, she’s not a warrior — she just played a futuristic one in an original stage production she and her peers created at their New Jersey high school. Off-stage, as a Nigerian-born, college-bound senior, Sumwen dreamt of continuing her acting and studying international business, to start a nonprofit organization and expand opportunities for young people across North America and Africa.

“In Pathways, we learned that you can do whatever you want to do, if you can put your mind to it,” Sumwen said. “Pathways has brought so many people to speak to us who’ve been through real-world experiences and can help us. We learned that college is very different experience than high school. You’ll have to have a tough skin. In high school, you’re spoon-fed information, but in college, you’re on your own and you’ll have to make your own decisions.”

Sumwen was a latecomer to Pathways. A teacher encouraged her to apply as early as sophomore year, but Sumwen was devoting her after-school hours to caring for an elder. In her junior year, Sumwen was immediately taken by an activity in which a Pathways teacher asked her and her fellow Scholars to create a chart to analyze and determine the differences in expectations for high school students and college students.

“I didn’t have any idea about what kind of college I wanted,” Sumwen said. “The college process threw me off guard. We worked on writing our personal statements for colleges so we could tell them who we are. I learned how to do that and tell my personal story.”

Sumwen also was pleasantly surprised to see that, unlike other college preparation programs, in Pathways, she and her peers discussed where they wanted to be after college. But for Sumwen, whose grandfather is an ethnic chief in his Nigerian community, there was something extra Pathways nurtured in her that other programs didn’t.

“Pathways has helped me become a leader in so many ways,” Sumwen said. “A school administrator picked me to be one of 12 students to represent the school and help students have greater voices. Pathways helped me develop my confidence. I never thought I’d be in the spot to be a leader. Pathways helped me build my speaking and my people skills.”

Sumwen found herself setting an example for her younger Pathways peers.

As a high school senior she said, “I’m able to help them prepare for their senior year. I tell them to write a draft of their personal statements in the summer after their junior year. I did three rewrites of my personal statement and one of the Pathways teachers helped.”

With 12 college acceptances in hand, Sumwen had no shortage of options.

“After school, when other kids are just hanging out, Pathways gives kids a purpose,” Sumwen said. “Pathways opens doors. When you saw Pathways teachers staying after school, willing to help students, it made you want to [be there].”