As a student at Capital City Public Charter School, Nnamdi Nweazeapu participated in Higher Achievement’s programming, benefitting from homework help and guidance on his application and placement into Banneker High School.
Alongside his parents and teachers, the support of programs like Higher Achievement and PwC’s Impact Scholars contributed to Nnamdi’s success. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree from Columbia and secured a prestigious summer internship at the legal firm DLA Piper. After graduating from Columbia, Nnamdi went back to work for DLA Piper as a paralegal. To his surprise, he crossed paths with Higher Achievement again during a presentation at DLA regarding opportunities to volunteer as an academic mentor.
Remembering his time at Higher Achievement, Nnamdi recognized the opportunity to give back. He carefully considered the responsibility of being a mentor. “I remember what it was like in 5th grade to have someone show up for you…or not,” reflects Nnamdi. “It’s a formative time, and relationships are so powerful at that age.”
As a 5th grade mentor, Nnamdi saw firsthand the impact a caring adult presence had on the lives of scholars. “The students are so receptive at that age,” recalls Nnamdi. “I remember one scholar in particular emulating the way that I was leading the lessons; he would even try to get the other kids to pay attention. As mentors, we were external authority figures outside of the students’ own bubble that they could look up to and rely on. They viewed us as someone who cared about whether or not they succeeded.”
Nnamdi saw how many scholars were beginning to form their own identities and chart their own paths. At the same time, Nnamdi was considering his own future. A year after mentoring with Higher Achievement, he went back to Columbia to pursue a law degree. But Nnamdi was left with a nagging feeling. “I kept thinking, ‘Am I sure law school is what I want to do?’ In that moment, I realized that so much of my life was built around grades and doing things that make my parents happy, not about what really interested me.”
After much reflection, Nnamdi requested a deferral of his degree and went on to pursue his passion for entrepreneurship, where he is now thriving. He currently works for Munich-based startup company, Mindshine and runs a small online community called the University of Good to help imperfect people learn how to live happier and healthier lives.
Recently Nnamdi wrote a book detailing his experiences. He hopes his book will provide parents and mentors wanting to support kids in their lives the tools to understand the new landscape their children are facing and the guidance to encourage them to pursue their own dreams.
“The key to success is to stop following the keys to success,” says Nnamdi, laughing. “My advice for young people today is to focus on what’s going to allow you to move forward in pursuing your own dreams.”
His book, “Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer: How to pursue your dreams without giving your parents a heart attack” is scheduled for release in December 2020 and is available for pre-sale.