Growing up in Nigeria, Tomi Akinrelere loved learning about physics, technical drawing and construction. So when he arrived in the United States in 2018, he said pursuing a degree in engineering was the logical next step.
But to find the right college, he needed some help.
“When we moved here, I didn’t even know what a community college was,” Akinrelere said. “I spent most of my time trying to get into a four-year. Then my aunt told me I could go to Howard Community College (HCC). She sent her kids there, and she said it would be an easy transition for me.”
Akinrelere enrolled and quickly immersed himself into HCC classes and activities.
“My first semester was my best semester,” he said. “I loved my theater class. I had Professor (Kasi) Campbell. I’d never done acting before, and I was actually really good. I didn’t know I had that in me. Also, my Speech 101 class with Professor Purnell… I was nervous about public speaking, but when I went to class, she explained that practice was key. So before every speech, I practiced a lot. Practiced, practiced, practiced. I found myself more comfortable in front of a large crowd.”
Akinrelere joined Howard P.R.I.D.E., a program that encourages academic, professional, and personal development of black male students, and HCC’s track and field team. A sprinter, Akinrelere specializes in the 100-meter and 200-meter track events.
“The thing I love most about track, it’s not even the races, it’s the practice,” he said. “Track was the last thing I did for the day. Before that, I had classes, I had assignments, I had tests. When I went to track, I’d just forget about everything.”
Akinrelere also recently became vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA), a student-run organization that involves students in the administrative, legislative and judicial governance of the college.
Through it all, he has maintained a 3.86 GPA. He made the dean’s list twice, was accepted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and received several scholarships, including the Howard PRIDE Fund, the Havtech Engineering Scholarship and the Howard Community College Educational Foundation Schoenbrodt Scholars Scholarship. HCC also named Akinrelere its Scholar Athlete of the Year for 2020.
“Howard Community College celebrates you when you do exceedingly well,” he said. “And with the scholarships, it’s more incentive to be the best person I can be. The college has provided me with so many resources that have helped me to become a better student and athlete.”
Tomi expects to graduate in spring 2021 with an associate degree in engineering. He then plans to transfer to a four-year university, where he will study civil engineering and computer science – and maybe even join the track team.
Wherever you want to go, you can get there from here.