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updated: 7/31/2014 12:19 PM

Schaumburg teens invited to prestigious leadership program

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  • Video: Standouts Ejike & Adaora Okpa

  • Siblings Ejike, left, and Adaora "Daisy" Okpa of Schaumburg were among 50 students selected -- from hundreds of applicants nationwide -- to participate in the annual Four Star Leadership program offered by the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum in Oklahoma.

       Siblings Ejike, left, and Adaora "Daisy" Okpa of Schaumburg were among 50 students selected -- from hundreds of applicants nationwide -- to participate in the annual Four Star Leadership program offered by the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum in Oklahoma.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Siblings Ejike and Adaora "Daisy" Okpa, of Schaumburg took part in a selective leadership program earlier this month. Ejike, 18, was captain of Conant High School's track team and took part in the school's peer mediation and anti-bullying programs. Daisy, 17, is a National Honor Society member and will attend Ohio State University, where she hopes to walk onto the track team.

       Siblings Ejike and Adaora "Daisy" Okpa, of Schaumburg took part in a selective leadership program earlier this month. Ejike, 18, was captain of Conant High School's track team and took part in the school's peer mediation and anti-bullying programs. Daisy, 17, is a National Honor Society member and will attend Ohio State University, where she hopes to walk onto the track team.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Ejike Okpa, 18, was captain of Conant High School's track team and took part in the school's peer mediation and anti-bullying programs. His sister, Daisy, 17, is a National Honor Society member and will attend Ohio State University, where she hopes to join the track team.

       Ejike Okpa, 18, was captain of Conant High School's track team and took part in the school's peer mediation and anti-bullying programs. His sister, Daisy, 17, is a National Honor Society member and will attend Ohio State University, where she hopes to join the track team.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

Those who know Ejike and Adaora "Daisy" Okpa say they stand out because of their thoughtfulness, which makes others pause and pay attention.

That's among the reasons Ejike, 18, and Daisy, 17, of Schaumburg, were among 50 students selected -- from hundreds of applicants nationwide -- to participate in the annual Four Star Leadership program offered by the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum in Oklahoma.

The one-week, all-expenses-paid program took place earlier this month.

"We're not looking for the smartest kid, or the kid with he highest GPA," said Warren Martin, executive director of leadership institute. "We're looking for the kid who, when he speaks on campus, the others listen."

The siblings. who this year graduated from Conant High School in Hoffman Estates and are headed to college next month, have a track record of success in both academics and athletics.

Ejike was captain of Conant's track team and participated in the school's peer mediation and anti-bullying programs. He will attend Hannibal LaGrange University in Missouri on a soccer scholarship.

Daisy -- who skipped the second grade -- is a National Honor Society member and will attend Ohio State University, where she hopes to join the track team as a walk-on.

The siblings were members of the Aurora Flyers Track Club and Sports Club United soccer club in Schaumburg.

Also, both volunteered at Schaumburg Community Church, where Daisy was a Sunday school teacher while Ejike watched the little ones.

The siblings did very well in the leadership course, Martin said.

The course includes competitions in persuasive writing, debate and other topics, team-building exercises and notable speakers such as Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and softball Olympic gold medalist Michele Smith.

"We were very proud to have both of them in our program," Martin said.

The success of Ejike and Daisy could be attributed to their mother's philosophy that kids should be encouraged to get out of their comfort zone and get an expanded view of the world around them.

"Meeting different kinds of people with different philosophies helps them in the workforce, helps them have a better perspective in the family, and helps them have more tolerance and patience in different circumstances," said Jean Onuaguluchi, who works in finance and program management. "It helps them to win, basically."

Their father, Tony May, works in program management and insurance. The family also includes brothers Givan, 11, and Anthony, 27.

Conant counselor Adam Leibman said Ejike and Daisy are special teens.

"When you work with high school kids, you can tell when you have unique kids who are more concerned about others than themselves," he said. "To be as thoughtful and as self-aware as they are, it's unusual for teenagers."

Being a peer mediator was one of high school's highlights, Ejike said.

"When I first did it, it wasn't easy because you had to empathize with people," he said. "That was the whole point -- to understand where (people) are coming from and their emotions."

Ejike took part in anti-bullying efforts in high school after having been bullied himself for two years in middle school. That was painful, he said, but it's been rewarding to help others in the same situation.

"(Kids who are bullied) shouldn't keep it inside, but they do because the shame and the guilt. They just don't want to be talking about it," he said. "But keeping it in doesn't do any good. I tell people that talking to someone will ease the pain and the stress that comes with it."

Daisy has a knack for accounting and entrepreneurship, said Patti Ertl, Conant's business education department chair. She excelled in business education classes for four years, including an independent study her senior year, and was a member of the Business Professionals of America competitive club, most recently making it to the state competition.

Daisy also was selected to join the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, which awarded her $950 for her homemade truffle business, Dione Chocolatier.

"She has initiative, passion, creativity," Ertl said.

Ejike is a hard worker who remains humble, said Adam Raupp, a coach at Sports Club United.

"If I told him to run around in circles on the soccer field because it's going to help score goals, he'll do that," Raupp said. "He just one of those kids."

Daisy said she wants to become a veterinarian, while Ejike wants to find a way to combine his passion for computers and the human mind.

When asked what their overall goal is, both siblings said -- simply put -- they want to make a world a better place.

"There is no such thing as a perfect world, but you're trying to make a world a better place for our future generations," Ejike said. "We have this earth, and it may not last as long (as we want), and I want to make it last longer for our children and grandchildren."

Daisy agreed.

"If people can understand that you can disagree without being disagreeable, you don't have to attack them or hurt them to make yourself feel better or make them feed bad," she said. "If everyone can have civil conversations, the world would be a more civil place."

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