“At a certain point in my life I stopped thinking about college because I knew I couldn’t afford it and it didn't seem logical to even put myself through the process,” reflected Peace Ikediuba, an Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School (ASLA) alumna. After moving from Texas to Los Angeles in her junior year of high school, Ikediuba had given up on her dreams of pursuing a higher education. Attending ASLA, she was immediately embraced by the school community. She saw that that every adult on campus saw her potential and cared about her well-being. “I gained another level of love for myself at ASLA. At the school I attended in Texas I was bullied and as a result it was hard to truly see myself in a positive light,” said Ikediuba. “Feeling the encouragement and love from people who didn’t know me that well helped me recognize that I needed to have that same love for myself.”
Ikediuba is now in her fourth year at Pepperdine University where she studies fine arts on a full-tuition scholarship. “I would've never thought in a million years that I would have opportunities like this,” said Ikediuba. “Though it has not been perfect, it has been the perfect place for me to grow.” Reflecting on the struggles she has faced in her life, Ikediuba felt it was crucial to share her journey. She hopes to empower students who are grappling with challenges like the ones she encountered on her road to college.
Road to College
Though Ikediuba was a capable student enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes and active on campus she couldn’t conceive a future that included college. That soon changed, at ASLA Ikediuba regained her self-confidence and began envisioning a pathway to college. It helped that she was encountering college level coursework. “Classes at ASLA were a different level of rigour. Whoo! Those AP courses did not play games,I don't think I had ever worked so hard in school,” laughed Ikediuba. Though it was difficult at first, they helped develop her thought processes and even now she reflects on the learning. “I loved those classes so much! They forced me to think in a much deeper way, I now think deeply, I’m self-reflective, and I view life in a deeper way. It is why I’m thankful for the education, the community, encouragement, and love ASLA provided me. It truly changed me.”
In 2014, Ikediuba was introduced to the Posse Foundation’s Posse Scholars, a program that identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who are often overlooked by the traditional college selection processes. Each year, the foundation’s partner colleges and universities awards 10 students with a four-year full-tuition leadership scholarship.
Despite being challenged in her courses and feeling supported at ASLA, Ikediuba’s road to college wasn’t easy: “There were points where I was questioning why my family moved here because nothing was getting better. Often times it was hard to go to school and focus on my education with so much going on at home, things that I felt I should have been helping with.” Though it was a constant struggle, Ikediuba didn’t let these circumstances deter her from her goal. “It amazes me that she was able to focus and earn good grades while going through situations I can't even imagine,” said Will Heuisler, Ethnic Studies teacher at ASLA.
Ikediuba’s hard work paid off when ASLA nominated her for the Posse Scholarship. “I was shocked, for my school to think ‘Peace can do it, she can get the scholarship, and succeed in college,’ helped me see that I truly could do it,” said Ikediuba. “That moment helped me realize that God was pushing me to pursue this and my teachers and counselors at ASLA wanted to see me succeed. I’m grateful that they believed in me when I didn't believe in myself.”
Dreams Do Come True
In 2016, after a rigorous process of interviews, Ikediuba and 89 other students across Los Angeles were selected to become Posse Scholars. Throughout the process she knew she wanted to attend Pepperdine University because of the institution's pursuit of integrating its commitment to its religious faith with its pursuit of academic excellence. At Pepperdine Ikediuba has thrived: She has been in stage productions, created strong bonds, made short films, and studied abroad. She is grateful for the opportunity the Posse Foundation has provided her with and the education she received at ASLA.
In spite of her positive experience at Pepperdine, Ikediuba has encountered sizeable challenges on her path to a college degree. Being the recipient of a full-tuition scholarship, most people believe that Ikediuba doesn't shoulder the financial struggles such as housing costs, that many students contend with in college. “The reality of my situation is that my family is still struggling. We’re living in this apartment that can barely fit all of us and I have to work two jobs just to help my mom pay bills and people don’t realize that,” recalled Ikediuba. As a first generation college student she is no stranger to the guilt students feel while pursuing a higher education.“Studying at Pepperdine in this affluent community, it’s very easy for someone in my situation to feel guilty knowing my family’s circumstances,” admitted Ikediuba. “Here I am at this beautiful university in Malibu where many of my peers come from wealth and likely don’t have to worry about money and I’m struggling just to pay my cell phone bill and make sure my mom has a roof over her head.”
Despite these hardships Ikediuba recognizes that she belongs at Pepperdine and that her education will provide her with the tools and opportunities to rise above circumstances which have negatively affected her and her family. Ikediuba is grateful that her high school supported her and helped her see that college was indeed possible. “I don’t think I’d be the same person if I didn’t go to college and I don’t think I'd like that person to be quite honest,” confessed Ikeduiba. “Though my experience at Pepperdine has forced me to go through tough situations, it reminded me of my resilience and that God has sent me here for a reason.”
Ikediuba’s former teachers are proud of what she has achieved and look forward to seeing what she accomplishes once she finishes college. “She is an unbelievably strong willed, impressive, and resilient young lady. I have kids now and I can only hope that they grow up to be like Peace,” reflected Heuisler. “I don't know what one does to develop a human being like Peace. Someone who can handle a high degree of adversity and still be such a strong leader and a positive and wonderful person.”
“Here I am at this beautiful university in Malibu where many of my peers come from wealth and likely don’t have to worry about money and I’m struggling just to pay my cell phone bill and make sure my mom has a roof over her head.”
-- Peace Ikediuba, ASLA Alumna
Ikediuba hopes her story helps others realize that their post secondary dreams are tangible. Her advice to students-- don’t knock yourself out of the game. “You can’t give up, there are so many opportunities available to help you achieve your goals,” beamed Ikeduiba. “The path may not always be smooth, there will be bumps but you can’t allow them to discourage you from following your path and achieving your dreams.”
One of Green Dot’s core values is our unwavering belief in all students' potential. Our schools and educators work tirelessly to close the achievement gaps for all students. We help students recognize and believe in their potential as we prepare them for college, leadership, and life. While this preparation is critical, we can’t be blind to the opportunity gaps and external challenges our students will face on this journey. To help remove such barriers, our schools work with college access partners like the Posse Foundation, College Match and Minds Matter. These organizations provide students with scholarships, additional individualized support, and resources.
Understanding the difficulties that accompany a student's first year of college, we have a team of Alumni Champions, a cohort of teachers and counselors who are available to alumni as they navigate their college campuses and the rigors of college. We also offer dual enrollment courses that help high school students earn college credit at no cost, saving both time and money. We know that a college education is vital for the long-term success of our students a degree will broaden their exposure to opportunities and enable greater social mobility. It is why we have remained committed to equipping students with the tools and wherewithal to succeed even when they no longer walk our halls.