Jere and Eileen Dutt Memorial Scholarship Recipient
Ontario Tech University
Chikodili Odinakachukwu’s parents taught her an important lesson growing up: knowledge is power. “Every opportunity is an avenue to learn,” Chikodili explained. “Always be a student. Always be learning.”
This idea has special meaning for her. Born into a Nigerian tribe that prioritizes the education of men over women, Chikodili understood that her parents were going against expectations to give their three daughters and three sons equal education. That’s why she later felt empowered to attend college – and travel all the way to Ontario, Canada, to do it.
“When it comes to education, you want to make a really good investment and get a good return,” Chikodili said. “There was a stronger system and greater opportunity for me in Canada.”
It was difficult being an international student away from her family, friends and all that she knew. Chikodili faced challenges like immigration restrictions, tuition and fees, and being a woman studying in the male-dominated engineering field. But she was determined to pursue her dreams. “I refused to succumb to these limitations,” Chikodili said. “Instead, I fought harder toward my goals.”
She lifted others up along her way. Chikodili became a peer mentor to other engineering students and joined her school’s Women in Engineering Sub-Society. She later volunteered as an International Programs Assistant, helping other students transfer and transition to Ontario Tech University. “It became my way of giving back to my community and helping international students receive better support,” she said. “As I was given, I was also giving.”
Chikodili has recently graduated with a degree in mechatronics engineering, a field that combines robotics, computers and other systems to solve issues. She’s ready to keep giving back in other ways.
“Where I’m from, the power system is not stable,” she said, “and access to things like technology and the internet is not reliable – things many people take for granted. Someday I want to use what I’ve learned to improve infrastructure.”
Chikodili is also motivated to empower others and help people rise up together. “That can be done in any industry,” she said. “Wherever I find myself, I know I’ll be able to contribute in a positive way.”
That’s exactly why Chikodili loves being an IBO. During the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chikodili started her business to earn money and find some stability. But she ended up getting even more.
“Entering a team environment where everyone genuinely cares about each other felt like family again,” she said. “I can help people like me who are looking and who have a dream.”
Chikodili knows that the lessons learned from her parents, her school and her business will take her far – and that this scholarship will help. “Thank you to the IBO Founding Families,” she said. “I am very humbled and so, so grateful.”
Founding Family | Jere & Eileen Dutt
We are pleased to support Chikodili as this year’s scholarship recipient. Her strength to overcome challenges and her vision to make things better for those who follow her should be an example for us all.
– The Dutt Family
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