Freshman Kenan scholar brings big dreams, joy to Elon

Each year, President Leo Lambert recognizes different students at  New Student Convocation. One of the students he mentioned this year was Omolayo Ojo, a freshman Honors Fellow at Elon University.

“She’s got a beautiful smile and she is engaged and intellectual,” said Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, director of the honors program. “She is someone we could tell would bring a lot of joy to Elon.” This is fitting since Ojo’s first name means “child is joy” in Yoruba, a West African language. Ojo was born in Nigeria and moved to Maryland in 1999.

“She was very memorable as an interviewee,” said Kenn Gaither, associate dean of the School of Communications. “She was unusually poised and she was engaged. It was clear she was raised to straddle and respect the culture of her roots. She seems comfortable with who she is, and I think it is rare for a high school student to have a sense of self, like she does.”

Ojo said she decided she wanted to come to Elon her sophomore year of high school because of the school of communications, the study abroad program and the international studies program.

She was selected as the Kenan Scholar for the Class of 2015, the only full-tuition scholarship given at Elon University. The director of the Honors Fellows program names the Kenan Fellow with consultation from the Honors Advisory Committee and the Fellows Scholarship Committee, which includes four students, one representative from each grade.

“Without the Kenan Scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to come to Elon because even with the Honors scholarship, University of Maryland was cheaper,” Ojo said.

In high school, Ojo participated in marching band, color guard, wind ensemble, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Model United Nations, National Honor Society and took an additional class on graphics communication.

“The biggest thing I did that meant the most to me was NHS,” she said. “It’s very service oriented and it does great things. I was president senior year and it was rewarding. It wasn’t about me being president, it was about me getting to help other people reach their goals.”

After the tsunami hit Japan in March, several people came to her with ideas to help raise money to help Japan recover. Ojo said she was able to help these students start different programs and collectively raise $6,000 in two or three days.

“Getting to hear people’s dreams and help make them a reality was one of the greatest parts of high school,” Ojo said.

She also wants to take her MUN knowledge and use it at Elon.

“I know Elon’s MUN is growing and I want to help it grow,” Ojo said. “There are so many local high schools and I think it would be great for Elon to host a high school conference.”

She is also interested in applying for Periclean Scholars, working with the International Center to recruit more international students and participating in her Learning Community and Honors Fellows cohort.

“I am humbled and awed at being picked as the Kenan and plan to make the best of this incredible opportunity,” Ojo said. “I’m not sure exactly how the next four years will play out, but I hope to leave Elon a better place than I found. Which will be a hard task seeing as how Elon is already a perfect place for me.”

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