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Growing In Confidence

Sophomore David Ejenam had a pretty clear vision of what he thought high school was going to be like. He had moved to the United States from Nigeria in 2018 and had spent the last two years getting over the culture shock of getting used to a new country and culture.

As David’s first year of high school approached, he couldn’t wait for the new adventure it was going to bring.

But then Covid hit, and David felt his vision of what high school was ‘supposed to be’ crashing down around his shoulders.

“It wasn’t exactly what I expected at all,” David said. “Covid hit and I stayed at home for a year, and I was like, ‘Why is this happening to me? This is not what I expected!’ I had this big dream of high school being so fantastic, and then I was like, ‘Is this how I’m going to start school?’”

David then spent his first year as a Providence Cristo Rey student studying from home and eagerly awaiting the day when he could start in person classes at last.

This year, as a sophomore, David got to do just that. One of the first big changes was the chance to begin making friends at school.

“I wasn’t a very social person before,” David said. “But after staying at home for a year, it really did a big deal on me. I realized I needed to talk to people – I had only just been talking to my parents!”

Unlike the stereotypes David had seen in movies about high school being a place where bullies thrived, David was happy to find that PCR was a different kind of environment.

“The people here are pretty nice,” he said happily. “I’ve made so many friends here because people actually love interaction. I guess we’re all in the same boat because we all went a year without talking to other people. I was also never the kind of person to have the kind of friends who stick around and actually care about how I’m doing or text me or stuff like that, but now I do, and it’s amazing,” he said.

“The teachers are also very nice and are willing to sit down and explain stuff or even if you’re not feeling okay, they ask if you need to talk.”

Another aspect of high school that David was excited to dive into was involvement in sports and extracurriculars.

“I’m thinking I could try for track and field because in Nigeria – not to brag – but I came in first in the 100 dash and the 400 meters, and I was really impressed with myself,” David said, laughing shyly. “Maybe I could do that this year – that’s one of my goals for high school.”

David also pushed himself out of his comfort zone to run for Sophomore Representative on Student Council – and won.

“To be honest, the reason I actually first applied to be a sophomore rep was because I knew it would be an opportunity to get service hours. I was behind and needed to catch up!” David explained. “Then I joined both Student Council and became a Student Ambassador as well, and we got these service opportunities, and I was like, ‘I kind of actually like it here.’”

One of his first opportunities to engage as a Student Ambassador was during Pride of Providence, PCR’s annual fundraiser and dinner. Next, David was asked to participate in the school’s annual Phone-A-Thon and was given rave reviews by his supervisors about how well he presented himself on the phone. He also became a student host for visiting Shadow students and had the opportunity to give school tours to potential students and their families during the school’s Fall Open House.

These opportunities have helped David work towards one of his personal goals.

“When I first came to this school, one of the teachers asked us to write something you would like to improve on. And for me, I wanted to be more confident because I was very, very shy. I was awkward with people. When I would say hi to people, my voice would be very low and my parents would always tell me to speak up.”

“These social events have made me outspoken now,” David said. “I’m still not the absolutely social type, but I try my best to reach out to people and it’s boosted my confidence generally.”

One other positive aspect of David’s new high school experience has been the Corporate Work Study Program.

Since he was a little kid, David had always loved dismantling things and putting them back together. As he got older, his knowledge became more technical and advanced. He would spend hours watching videos on YouTube or social media, learning how things worked – about engines, or gears, or the transfer of energy.

He especially became interested in cars, an interest which he expressed to the Corporate Work Study team when he was looking to get matched with his first CWS job placement.

The team placed him first at Tom Wood Volkswagen and then the following year at Tom Wood Toyota. Despite being in a job that on the surface was a good fit, David learned that he had to advocate for himself if he wanted to receive the kind of work he really wanted to be doing.

“The place I worked last year was Tom Wood Volkswagen, and they knew I loved cars,” David began. “But at first they put me in an office. I didn’t exactly like that because all I was doing was sitting down and typing.”

“Each week they had me fill out a survey, and I didn’t really like what I was doing, so I kept putting, ‘I like cars! I like cars! I want to be a mechanical engineer, not this!’ Eventually I asked, ‘Is there anything else you might have for me?’”

David’s supervisor readily agreed to place David in the parts department where he had the opportunity to prepare the cars to be worked on, print out customer schedules, and greet customers as they arrived. David is excited about the chance to get more hands-on experience and hopes to grow in responsibility at his job now that they’ve see what he can do.

David is confident that his PCR education and CWS experience will help prepare him for his future as a mechanical engineer. He has his trajectory all planned out.

“I’m planning to work for someone first, and after I’ve gotten experience, I want to start working for myself. I want to create my own company slowly but steadily,” David said proudly. “And I have even been thinking of engine designs that could probably be better, and maybe in the future I could create a better engine that could be more efficient and generate more power than it takes.”

But for now, David is just excited to be going to high school for real. His journey may not have started out the way he planned, but now that he’s here, David is ready to make his high school year’s count.

Want to support students like David? Your gift in any amount helps to support critical programs and services and ensures that all students are able to afford a Providence Cristo Rey education. Make your gift today!


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