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Face of the Week: Chinonye Okoye of Northwest Academy of Health Sciences

Team BCPS is made up of thousands of accomplished and interesting students, employees, and community supporters. "Face of the Week" introduces you to some of the people who make BCPS such an amazing mosaic of talent, caring, and commitment.
12/20/2017

Face of the Week: Chinonye Okoye of Northwest Academy of Health Sciences

As she sat near the front of the cavernous multi-purpose room at Northwest Academy of Health Sciences one night last month, 11-year-old Chinonye Okoye scanned the crowd of dignitaries in front of her and scanned the crowd of proud parents behind her and had a thought:

“This is what being a hero feels like.”

Chinoye – “Favor” to her family and friends because “my mom and dad always said that God would call me that” – was among 90 students who assembled November 13 from Northwest and Randallstown High School to be “inducted” into the schools’ health sciences magnet programs. The event was a formal recognition of that entry – a “pinning” ceremony to help instill passion in the student inductees.

“I want one of our students here today to be the one to cure cancer,” said Brian White, executive vice president of LifeBridge Health, who gave the keynote address that night.

“I want you to know tonight that it’s okay to pursue a passion with all your energy. And I want you to know that it’s all attainable, that’s it’s all reachable,” White told Favor and her classmates. “Be passionate about what you do. That will be the secret to your success.”

Later, Favor strode up to White and a long receiving line of educators and medical professionals, many of them doctors at Northwest Hospital where Favor will someday take some of her classes. She shook hands, received words of encouragement and congratulations, and was handed a small pin to mark the moment.

In the school lobby afterwards, as parents and students hugged and posed for selfies, Favor reflected on what embarking on a career in medicine means to her. “It makes me feel like a hero,” she said. “I’m going to be excited to grow up and be a doctor.”

“I’m excited for her,” Favor’s mother, Nonye Okoye, said. “I’m excited to see what the future holds for her.”

Inspired by her mother

The future for Favor got a little closer that day in November, the start of something big in her young life. The partnership between Northwest Academy, Randallstown High, and Northwest Hospital, now in its second year, grooms future medical professionals through a strong health- and sciences-based curriculum and provides students with real-life experiences and observation of a variety of health care professions including laboratory technicians, physical therapists, radiologists, nurses, and doctors.

Favor, whose favorite subjects are mathematics and reading, is starting with a health care class this year that examines the history of health care as well as where diseases and germs come from and how scientists and doctors have discovered medical cures.

Her mother, who works in medicine, is her inspiration. “She’s helping people every day who aren’t feeling well, helps them feel better and be strong,” she says. “I always want to be like my mom.”

Favor can’t say why, exactly, but she is especially interested in researching blood ailments and breast cancer.

And, too, there have been other motivators for Favor. One of her favorite books, she says, is “Wonder,” the story of a fifth-grade boy, August Pullman, who must deal with having a disease called Treacher Collins Syndrome, which causes head and facial abnormalities. “I learned that just because he looks different doesn’t mean he can’t do the things he wants to do in life,” Favor says. “If August decided he wanted to become an astronaut, I feel like I could become a doctor.”

First comes school, however. A graduate of Woodholme Elementary School who also attended Owings Mills and Scotts Branch elementaries following several family moves, Favor enjoys middle school but is just now getting used the changes from Woodholme – earlier bell times, lockers not near classrooms, different teachers for different courses, no recess.

“I imagine after university and I go through medical school, I can come back and teach my young ones,” she says, referring to brother Chidoze, 6, whose family nickname is Destiny, and sister, Chinaecherum, 7, whose nickname is Precious. “But first, my goal is to make it through middle school and high school and get to college.”

She’s well on her way, according to teachers who know her best. “Chinonye is a talented scholar whose work shows her attention to detail,” says Favor’s art teacher, Monica Rastegar. “She works with focus and determination on every assignment. She is a quiet, creative, and courageous role model.” 

Adds Leana Janney, Favor’s math teacher, “(Favor) strives to do her absolute best in everything she does. Additionally . . . with her soft spoken nature, she is always kind to everyone around her.”

“The future of doctors”

A Baltimore native, Favor will almost certainly attend Randallstown High School after Northwest Academy, where students who successfully complete the middle school program are guaranteed a spot in Randallstown’s Academy of Health Professions.

“This is a badge of honor for these students, a rite of passage for them to be in this program and to participate in the pinning ceremony,” says Northwest Academy Principal Dr. Katina Webster. “It symbolizes that for every one of them, this is a special moment.”

For now, though, Favor will continue to study, talk with friends, babysit her brother and sister, and help with chores around the house for her mother and father, who is a police officer. A recent field trip to Towson University sparked interest in college, though that still seems far away for now.

She’ll enjoy playing soccer and basketball, and continue observing her mother’s career and listening to the stories she brings home about working in a health clinic. She’ll continue reading and working on math, which she likes because, when it’s hard, “I have to keep practicing at it until I can do it.”

And she’ll have memories of the pinning ceremony a month ago, when her dreams crystallized and suddenly seemed within reach.

“One day I saw a homeless person on the street, and he looked sick, and I want to help people who are not well, or don’t have a home, or who are sick and dying,” Favor says. “To me, that’s what doctors do. That’s what makes them a hero to me. Doctors are real-life heroes who can help people.

“And I’m the future of doctors,” Favor adds, echoing the sentiments expressed by Mr. White and Dr. Webster and all the others on that magical November night not long ago.

Do you know of a special person who would be a good candidate for the BCPS “Face of the Week”? Let us know! Send their name, contact information, and what makes them special to cherndon@bcps.org.  

For more photos, visit the album at the BPCS Flickr page.  

 

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