When Whitney Onoberhie arrived in Canada from Nigeria four years ago, she was adjusting to life in a new country and a new school. Yet, she turned her focus outward, helping other youth in her school and in her community.
“Helping others is a motivation for me,” she said. “It makes me feel more confident.”
Now a first-year computer science student at Western, when Onoberhie and her family settled in North York, Ont., she found she had to retake some of her high school courses.
“I didn’t do so well in grade 11 math,” she said. “That’s what made me decide to help tutor other students at the school the next year. I wanted to help them as much as I could.”
In addition to coordinating afternoon lessons at her high school to help more than 10 science students prepare for their final exams, she also volunteered at the Parkway Forest Community Centre, organizing youth activities and helping at the local food bank.
Onoberhie’s strong academic performance and volunteer contributions were recently recognized when she was awarded an RBC Future Launch Scholarship for Black Youth. The scholarship provides up to $10,000 per year for up to four years toward tuition and other academic and living expenses.
She was selected by a committee comprised of Black leaders from academic, business and non-profit backgrounds. Recipients benefit from additional professional resources, including mentorship, academic and career planning, tutoring and networking opportunities.
Onoberhie was nominated for the scholarship by the Careers Education Empowerment (CEE) Centre for Young Black Professionals. CEE is a Toronto-based non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the economic and social barriers that affect Black youth. The organization was instrumental in Onoberhie’s education and career development, and for inspiring her to improve her programming language skills through their Cybersecurity program.
“We are so happy and proud that Whitney was a successful candidate for the scholarship,” Bunmi Ehigiator, a manager at CEE said. “She’s very ambitious and hardworking, and we know this scholarship will help to continue her success and help her fulfill her future aspirations.”
Onoberhie was drawn to Western for the ability to minor in French while pursuing her computer science degree and for the pathway to study business at the Ivey Business School. She’s also enjoying sharpening her programming skills as a member of the Western Developers Society.
A “leader by nature” with a passion for innovation, Onoberhie aspires to one day apply artificial intelligence (AI) to further humanitarian efforts. She’s excited by the idea of using AI to improve healthcare or to help mitigate climate change.
“The way the earth is, there are more problems ahead,” she said. “If we can focus on what we are developing and get the right minds involved, I see possibilities for future generations. I think the positive factors about AI are greater than the negative ones.”