A native of Houston, TX, Chidimma Uwalaka ’16 CLAS (English) is looking to make a difference in the lives of students in underrepresented schools. As a high school student, Chidimma attended a public school, a magnet school and a charter school and she saw the difference at her charter school.
“At the charter school, I wasn’t just a name,” Chidimma said. “They knew every student. I had been an underrepresented student and now I was being recognized. I learned about Villanova because of my high school guidance counselor who thought it would be a good fit.”
Her counselor turned out to be right. Chidimma, now a senior, is an English major with Africana Studies and Educational Policy and Leadership minors. This past summer, she worked with Uncommon Charter Schools as a Fellow at a school in Brooklyn, New York. “At the end of the program, I realized that it wasn’t just my job to be their teacher, but their advocate too,” said Chidimma. She is taking that advocacy into her studies. In her current Geography class, she is working on a project that examines education system in the Greater Philadelphia area. Her project “Two Sides of the Same Coin: Educational Disparity in the Greater Philadelphia Area” examines the educational differences in schools that are close together, some only two miles apart.
Chidimma points to her classes with Education and Counseling professors Helen Lafferty, PhD and Jerusha Conner, PhD as influences on her decision to make a career in education reform. Chidimma took two courses with Dr. Conner, her first, an Educational Policy Analysis class has students visiting a school in Philadelphia right after a merger. Villanova students researched and documented the challenges facing the school and high school students. Dr. Conner and that class are the reason she is an Education minor. She also participated in an Independent Study with Dr. Conner. Chidimma’s Philosophy of Education class with Dr. Lafferty helped to cement her purpose. The never-ending question of “Why?” and journaling exercises on questions such as “What is your purpose?” helped Chidimma realize that her purpose in life is to help underrepresented students, as she once was.
After graduation, Chidimma will be returning to Uncommon Charter Schools as a teacher with long-term goals of effecting policy change and long-term education reform.