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On a quest

Aspiring doctor goes for full ride scholarship

Udani Satarasinghe, Co-editor

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Unlit rooms. No public bathrooms. Crowded hallways and mattresses on carts. To senior Star Okolie, it looked a scene from a Nigerian movie, not the hospital where her grandmother should be staying.

She left Nigeria with a goal to become a doctor and change what she saw. Now, she has the opportunity to attend college for free and turn this vision into a reality. Star was selected as a QuestBridge Finalist, which presents her with the chance to receive a full ride scholarship to a highly selective college.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve always dreamed about going to schools like Stanford and Princeton,” Star said. “The opportunity to attend one of those schools for free inspired me to take my chances and see how far I’ll go.”

Star’s top choice is Rice University, located in Houston, Texas.

“I want to major in Pre–Med and Rice has a thing called the Baylor Medical Scholars Program,” Star said. “Essentially they choose six students out of everyone who applies to be directly accepted into Rice and Baylor Medical schools. It would really set me up for my future career.”

But attending medical school is not Star’s only dream.

“She has a dream to find a way to help less privileged, especially in Africa, where she comes from,” Star’s mom Augusta Okolie said. “Her dream is to have a hospital where people will never be denied medical attention because of their financial status. She imagined it herself.”

Maham Afzal
Star Okolie works in Anatomy and Physiology.

Before she focuses on nonprofit work and building hospitals in Nigeria, Star wants to become a cardiothoracic surgeon, a career she discovered in the Interdisciplinary Study & Mentorship (ISM) class she took last year.

“Initially, I wanted to be a pediatrician,” Star said. “But, as I researched more and more into cardiothoracic surgery and realized I could still have a family life in the future, I changed my mind. Through ISM, I actually got to see six surgeries. At first, I thought I was going to pass out because it’s not like YouTube videos, but when I got in there and saw it up close and in real life, it just looked fun, especially with my mentor and the way she did everything. Being able to experience a day in the life of a surgeon really helped me decide that’s what I want to do.”

According to Star’s mom, Star has wanted to be a doctor since preschool.

“At First Baptist Church, they had a day where kids dress like what they want to be when they grow up,” Mrs. Okolie said. “She always chose a doctor and dressed up like one with all this medical equipment. She’s a child who really knows what she wants, and she goes for it.”

Coming from a family of four children, all within a year apart, Star saw QuestBridge as a way to help her parents.

“If I have words to express the possibility of not paying for Star’s college, I would do so,” Mrs. Okolie said. “Sometimes she’s worried that due to our financial status she may not achieve her dreams. With this opportunity, it will take her to where she really wants to be.’”

Star couldn’t believe she was a finalist at first.

“I had been denied to the junior year QuestBridge program, so the day before I had a bad dream where I got the denial email because I remembered what it looked like,” Star said. “This time, when I saw the ‘Congratulations,’ I screamed.  I put it on my Snapchat story. It didn’t really hit me until a few days afterwards that I’m eligible to get this full ride somewhere. All the work I’ve put into high school is finally paying off.”

Mrs. Okolie also screamed.

“I couldn’t stop grabbing her, giving her kisses,” Mrs. Okolie said “I was dumbfounded. I looked straight into her eyes and said ‘Thank you so much for making me not work too much.’ It’s like Manna, from the Bible. I have Manna from above.”

As a finalist, Star has to go through another application process, where she ranks her top colleges and hopes she gets matched for a full ride scholarship to one of the QuestBridge partner schools.

“In the district we usually have one match a year, but in the years I’ve been at McKinney High, we’ve had three QuestBridge finalists but never a match,” College counselor Brandi Ribble said. “It would be big deal for the school because we would get nationally recognized. And of course, the best thing is that the student gets a full ride to a prestigious school.”

Star, it’s more than a big deal – it’s a chance to make history.

“I’ll be the first doctor in my family, on both my mom’s side and dad’s side,” Star said. “I’m disproving stereotypes, which is something that constantly motivates me. Because I’m African-American and a girl, not a lot of people think I can achieve a lot. I want to show them what I can do.”

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