Alumni Reflection: Ihechikarageme Munonye

I graduated from Higher Achievement in May of 2018. My interactions and experiences at Higher Achievement shaped me into who I am today. I remember being a 4th grader in elementary school and having adults walk into my classroom to talk about Higher Achievement. I remember being excited about this new opportunity. The 4th-grade version of myself was equally, and arguably, more ambitious than I am now. At the time I knew I was not interested in the homework after-school help but was more excited about the leadership positions and the mentoring opportunities. This was what drew me to Higher Achievement: the thirst for responsibility and opportunity.

My overall experience at Higher Achievement was fun. Although I do not remember my experiences in great detail, I remember challenging myself with poetry slams, geography bees, and the youth ambassador positions. It was nice to try new things and experience success for the first time. Experiencing success for what would be the first time in my life and the mentoring program were my favorite aspects of Higher Achievement. I am still in contact with all of my mentors and students whom I met. My experience at Higher Achievement was largely shaped by the opportunities that presented themselves as well as the people I met. Having like-minded students as well as supportive staff and mentors pushed me to do new things, and it was through these experiences that I found an interest in writing and social service.

Through activities such as the ambassador election, poetry slam, and geography bee competitions, I began to develop a sense of leadership. I remember looking forward to Higher Achievement’s after-school program. For my first two years at Higher Achievement, my middle school was close to the Ward 4 Higher Achievement campus, and I remember walking to Higher Achievement with my friends and feeling excited to see the friends I did not go to school with. I looked forward mostly to the mentorship portion of Higher Achievement, as the mentors that I had eventually blossomed into nice friendships. I was unaware of how deeply enriching this element of Higher Achievement was. This is what I would say was the most memorable aspect as the strong sense of community and support is something that still stays with me today.

My high school path was very interesting and uncommon. I was a part of the years of students whose educational experiences were impacted by the Coronavirus when it was initially spreading. In addition to that, I was dually enrolled at George Washington University for two years. In my first two years of high school, I largely focused on my academics and didn’t branch out to explore classes or join clubs that I may have been interested in. My only extracurricular activity was the show choir at School Without Walls during my freshman year. In my sophomore year of high school, I focused again on my academics and getting into the Dual Enrollment program at my high school. I was accepted and by my senior year at high school, I took all of my classes at George Washington University and eventually earned my associate’s degree and my high school diploma.

This period of taking courses at George Washington University was the most transformative for me as it allowed time for me to think and explore areas of interest that I was passionate about. Through this time of taking classes at George Washington University, I began to gravitate in my interest to what I thought was political science, international affairs, law, and governance, to social service, nonprofit organization work, urban planning, social and cultural anthropology, as well as creative writing, visual, and the performing arts.

As my last year in high school was soon approaching, I got into the majority of the schools that I was interested in. I finally decided to go with Harvard and was pleased with the affordability of the school. Currently during my time at Harvard, I am pursuing a lot of my hobbies and interests. I am delving into play and novel writing and intend to expand to encompass screenwriting, music composition, directing, and production for film and theatrical purposes, as well as acting, singing, songwriting, and film and video creation and editing. Outside of the artistic realm, I want to explore nonprofit organizational work, as well as urban planning and sustainable country and city development. So far through my time at Harvard, I created an original play, directed it, worked to compose original music for it, and aided in its production for the first-year art program at Harvard. I have worked as a film director for a professor’s original play, and this upcoming semester I will be working as a student producer for the Arts First Festival at Harvard University.

Overall, I can definitely say that my experiences at Higher Achievement aided in the many successes I have had over my 18 years. If I had to give one piece of advice to incoming and current students, it would be to take it all in. Try and do everything that Higher Achievement has to offer. Use your peers and staff as resources for yourself, pour into others, and most importantly have fun!

— Ihechikarageme Munonye