She went from her little school in Enugu, to greatness.
It all began when she was in Primary Six in Enugu, and officials from the Shehu Musa Yar'adua came calling.
“My school was one of the schools they came to and I was lucky to have been chosen for the exams,” Ms. Onuigbo recalled.
“So, I went for the exams, the first one was a written exam, the second one was an oral interview. I was lucky to emerge as one of the winners of the scholarship from my state. That was how I won my first scholarship to secondary school.”
And so, her journey began to the moment she'd have to make history at the American University, Yola. She bagged a scholarship to the American University. And as everyone celebrated her that night, even with six awards, she admitted that the journey wasn't always easy. The culture shock of leaving the East to the North.
She told Premium Times:
“The first challenge was language barrier.
Prior to coming here, it was only English and Igbo that I normally hear, but I came here and almost everyone was speaking Hausa, so I heard to adapt to hearing people speak Hausa, and I eventually learnt how to speak Hausa.
“Another thing was the journey; the road trip was always very stressful but then it was always worth it coming back to school.
“For academic challenges… I had great teachers in my secondary school. Whenever I needed help, I always asked for one and they were always willing to help, so it made it very easy to excel academically. I didn’t have much problem academically.”
When the American University was founded in 2003, a Honors Society was created, strictly for the most outstanding students.
“Being a member (of the Honors Society), the minimum CGPA to be a member is 3.5. So, if you want to maintain your membership, you have to work hard to at least be above that 3.5. So, it helped me to keep my grades in check,” Ms. Onuigbo said.
“Also, the scholarship programme that we do, we organize jazz nights, we sell tickets and then the money we get from the ticket sales we use it go give scholarships to primary school children. So, it really helped me build my community service skills. I served as secretary.”
“I would say that I was lucky to have chosen something that I enjoy doing.
Because you know, one thing is that no matter what studying is actually hard. What makes it easier is if you are enjoying, then you feel the pain less. So, I enjoyed what I read, and I love learning, learning new things. Every day I learn a new thing. That was what helped me.”
But Immaculata wasn't all work and know play. She had a reputation for her football.
“One major part of my life in campus is sports, I play volleyball and soccer."
“I believe that it’s good to keep both the intellectual part of you and the physical part of you intact. Sports always helped me to relieve stress, so that’s one of the best part of AUN. I use it to balance my academic life. My spiritual life, I’m a Catholic, I’m in the choir. Whenever I sing, I enjoy it. It makes me feel really good.”
In the end, she bagged the highest G.P.A in the school's history with a 3.98 (AUN uses the American Grading System with 4.0 being the highest possible CGPA.)
She said her ambition is to be a university professor.
“For a while, I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to do after university but like I said before, Honours Society helps students that are academically challenged and all.
“I participated in the tutorial services and actually came to see that while I teach people, I actually learn more. It gives me a special kind of happiness when I know that someone knows something because I actually helped that person. I think that was when I started thinking of venturing into the education world.
“I also have wonderful professors. The female ones, they are really worth looking up to. I admire them and I think it’s something I can actually do and would love doing. I know the work is an everyday thing and you may tend to get tired of it, but because I will be learning every day by doing that, I think I will be okay being a professor at a university.”
When her mother spoke, she said:
“I thank God, I also thank the Yar’Adua Centre because without the Yar’Adua Centre, I don’t know whether such good will come across to me or reach me. The Foundation is the pillar of this little girl.”
“Because as from Primary Four, she used to write letters. If I am out now, she wants to tell me something, she will put it in writing, when I read it, I’ll just laugh and say ‘this girl has sharp brain.'”
Immaculata won the Afrinvest (West Africa) Award for Academic Excellence that includes a paid internship at any of the company’s subsidiaries.
We wish her all the very best.