Hello. My name is Iyioluwa Okunlola, or Iyi (pronounced ‘E-Yee’) for short. “Iyioluwa“ in Yoruba, a West African dialect and ethnic group, translates to “the honor of the Lord of the Universe”, and I try to live up to such a unique name that is frequently mispronounced, and thought to be of Hawaiian descent. I am a 22-year-old North Jersey native who graduated from St. Lawrence University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation Biology in May 2014.
Three factors really drew me to the Saha Global Field Rep opportunity. Firstly I am of Nigerian descent, and I really have a passion for West African culture, and its well being. One year prior to partaking in the Saha Global Leadership Program, during a holiday break from college I had the opportunity to travel back to Nigeria with family, which was a very humbling yet a irrevocable and memorable experience for me. Finally, prior to working with Saha Global I thought I wanted to be a Physical Therapist, but after these life-changing experiences and my general passion for ecology and the natural world, I decided to pursue a degree in Conservation Biology with the intent of learning and focusing a career devoted to international development and mitigating environmental issues, which are often cruxes to developing countries.
My biggest memory from Ghana and the Saha Global Leadership Program would definitely be the camaraderie I was able to build with the village, Tohinayilli, and the Saha Global translators and staff. When I asked TJ, a Ghanaian translator for Saha Global, what he liked most about his country, he told me “Ghana is Freedom and Peace”. That really resonated with me. For this reason I would say the biggest takeaway from this program would be the opportunity to work with like-minded individuals from all over the world.
The Saha Global Leadership Program has helped me develop skills such as research, fieldwork, water quality analysis, community outreach, teamwork, and donation soliciting, which are important for professionalism and my desired career path. I was able to spend the summer of 2013 up at St. Lawrence doing a research fellowship with a professor based upon research I collected from my experience with Saha Global. As a result of my favorable time with Saha Global, I hope to combine a graduate degree with Peace Corps through a Master’s International program in the near future. As for now, I am happy to announce that I will be a tutor as part of the Great Oaks Charter School Urban Tutor Fellowship in Newark, New Jersey for the 2014-2015 school year. Take a chance to get out of your comfort zone with Saha Global, and I am sure you will have an experience you will remember quite fondly!