The 2020 Scholarship Winner

Akeena Obaze

August 1, 2020

Award: $1,000

Louisiana Tech University

The Sure Oak team is pleased to announce Akeena Obaze as the winner of The 2020 Sure Oak Scholarship for $1,000. Akeena, who attends Louisiana Tech University, was selected from a pool of 1500 candidates. Candidates had to craft and submit an essay detailing how their university will put them on track to achieving their goals.

Akeena wrote a moving essay highlighting her immense work ethic and crediting her parents for instilling it in her despite adversity.

Akeena currently attends Louisiana Tech University as a pharmaceutical student.

Congratulations, Akeena!

Akeena's Winning Essay

There was a tree I passed every day on my way to the bus stop. I walked during high school before I could drive. In the little space between the sidewalk and road, the tree stood in powerful silence. It ignored the city that built up around it, flourishing, forcefully bending the sidewalk upward to make room for its roots. The leaves reached into the sky, past the rooftops of the surrounding houses. However, Senior year the tree was chopped down its branches, finally bowing to the human world around it. When I saw it the next day, it’s powerful limbs laid on my neighbor’s lawn. The stump had been removed. It was over. Or so I thought: once the rubble was removed, I noted three new trees were sprouting on my neighbor’s front lawn. In the time between the tree being cut down and getting picked up, it rerooted.

My parents taught me to be like this tree. To grow firm and unmoving. To find my dreams and reach for the sky. They always remind me to stay focused and grounded. They taught me to be proud of my Nigerian-American heritage. My parents are a living example of the American Dream, the thought that with hard work, dedication, and positivity can get you anywhere you want in life. My mom came from the streets of South Dallas, and my Dad grew up in the jungles of Jos, Nigeria; both pushed through poverty and made a life for themselves from the ground up. Even though they aren’t together anymore, they have both influenced me in the way I see the world and the way I handle myself.

My mother is my roots. She keeps me focused and on task. My mother was a single mother of two and a college dropout at 25. She pushed herself through the police academy. When she met my Dad and had me, she didn’t stop striving. Her main goal was to keep me and my sisters protected, happy, and healthy. What she taught me not only in her stories but through her actions was how never to forget what your goal is. When I fail at a piano recital or freeze up during a speech, I get up, dust myself off, and try again. My mother instilled the resilience that will sprout a new tree from an old stump.

My Dad was my leaves, the person who told me to reach for the stars and nothing less. My Dad dreamed of becoming more than a village boy in Nigeria, so he worked hard and was able to attend college in the U.S. Being the only black person in a college in the ’70s was hard, but my Dad just kept pushing because he knew what he wanted. I’m his daughter, and he knows I could do even more if I just saw my future and fought for it. I dream big because of my Dad. I want to put my dent in history and show everyone what I can do.

I want to create positive change by spending time in labs and helping advance our medical understanding. There are many diseases that we don’t understand, both mental and physical. Without knowing our enemy, we cannot beat it, so I want to be on the front line of that fight. What kick-started my fascination with pharmaceuticals was a documentary I watched. It talked about how expensive it is for cancer patients to buy medicine, how people go into debt just so that they can continue to live. I want to stop this unnecessary pain. I want to help them the best way I know how, with science. I decided to major in chemistry. In Highschool, I hung out in my chemistry teacher’s lab every day. By the end of the year, I had memorized where everything was placed in the lab. I loved having conversions with him about chemistry and any of his past research. I knew it was going to be difficult, but I believed in myself. I had a purpose now; I just need a degree.

I know I’m still a growing tree, but with one year of college under my belt, I’m ready to stand on my own. I know that I will go through hardships. Life is not an easy road, but my parents have given me so much. I don’t want to continue to burden them in their old age. Both my parents are older, and this past year has been stressful for all of us. My mom retired in May after recovering from her double knee surgery. Last summer, before I went to college, my father had a stroke and had to retire earlier than expected. Now that the coronavirus has hit and I can’t get a job and put my parents at risk. I’m stressed about money and my parents’ health and safety. Because they’re both retired, there’s not a steady income coming in.

This scholarship would diminish much of my stress and make sure that I stay focused on my school work. Money shouldn’t be a boundary keeping me from reaching my goals. I’ve studied hard to get into magnet programs and college. I’ve always wanted my voice to be heard, and my name to be remembered. This scholarship would help me to not only worry less about money, but It would also help me continue my journey through college and beyond. I’ve been grinding to raise funds for my college bills. I plan to tutor online in the fall, I am a federal work-study student, and I’m continuously applying for scholarships. I try all these ways because, as a college student, there’s always something to pay for. This scholarship wouldn’t pay for all my expenses, but it would create a substantial dent and help me grow from a sapling into a great oak.