By Kristin Schultz
She has a big smile, a big heart and a work ethic that won’t quit, and this fall she’s headed to Princeton hoping to pursue a career in surgery and neuroscience. She will be the first person in her family to go to college in the United States.
Temitope Oshinowo moved from Nigeria to the U.S. when she was 4 years old. Her family first settled in Houston before relocating to Niskayuna in 2008 when her father took a job with GE.
“I remember moving to the United States,” she said. “It was a big moment. I remember the plane ride from Africa to Europe to here. I remember our first night in Houston and apartment hunting with my parents.”
She also remembers starting the fourth grade in Niskayuna and the teachers that sparked her interest in science.
“I adore the teachers I’ve had,” Oshinowo said. “They have made a great impact on my life, especially with getting me interested in science.”
Oshinowo also took advantage of extra-classroom, science-related opportunities like summer programs in which she was able to tour the GE facilities and study forensics, art and science.
Through Niskayuna High School’s Career Exploration Internship Program, Oshinowo shadowed Ellis Medicine general surgeon Mark Sanchez. She observed a number of surgeries, including a gallbladder removal and a large bowel resection.
She didn’t think she would be squeamish but, just in case, Oshinowo followed the operation room nurses’ advice to, at first, be seated close to the walls in case she felt ill or passed out. She did not react negatively to the cutting and operating, and as time went on Oshinowo moved closer to the table to observe each procedure.
“My favorite surgery was the large bowel resection,” she said. Most of the procedures she observed were laproscopic, but the resection required the patient to be fully opened up. “I had taken an anatomy class and it was cool to see what I had learned about in real life.”
Thankful for opportunities
Oshinowo watched the surgery for five hours before she reluctantly went home.
She applied to and was accepted by many prestigious colleges and universities including West Point, Dartmouth, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Boston University, Syracuse and many more. Oshinowo chose Princeton for the robust nature and flexibility of its pre-medicine neuroscience program.
“I wanted to apply to as many schools as I could to increase my chances of getting in,” she said. “I was interested in the Ivy League schools and West Point and at Princeton there is a good program and there are good opportunities for minority women. I am so thankful for all the opportunities in this country.”
Oshinowo felt at home at Princeton and connected with professors and staff who encouraged her and promised to be there if she needed anything — academically or otherwise.
Oshinowo credits her parents for inspiring and encouraging her strong work ethic.
“They had a comfortable life in Nigeria,” she said. “They came here to give their children a better education. That sacrifice motivates me to get good grades and do the best I can. They gave up everything to come here for us. The least I can do is make them proud by doing well.”
If her high school career is any indication of her impending college career, her parents will be very proud. Oshinowo has received a number of academic awards, participates in music, academic and the SAPE club and volunteers around the region.
“She is deeply admired among her peers for her work ethic,” said Niskayuna High School Principal John Rickert. “She has a great personality and her classmates say she is always smiling. She is driven, motivated and really values education.”
For herself, Oshinowo is proud of earning an A in AP Chemistry, the hardest class she took at Niskayuna and getting elected as the treasurer for the National Honor Society.
“That was special because it is your peers who vote,” she said. “It was a big deal that my peers would want me to handle such a big responsibility.”
Oshinowo also plays the trombone and likes creative writing and looks forward to hopefully have time to do more writing over the summer. She also enjoys painting and making homemade greeting cards for her friends’ birthdays and graduations.
“I don’t get to do it that often, but it is calming to put everything else to the side and focus on making cards.”
Oshinowo will head to Princeton in early September, leaving behind her parents and three younger siblings.
“I know it will be a really big change,” she said. “This is the first time someone in the family is moving out. It will be hard because I am very close with my sister. But there are family weekends where they will come visit.”
When they do visit, her family will undoubtedly be greeted with evidence of her hard work and, of course, her warm, beaming smile.