College was always the goal for Westerville South High School senior Emmanuel Okyere. His grandmother once told him before he moved to the U.S. from Ghana at age 10: “Go there. Serve God. Get a scholarship.”
Ini Oyewusi, also a senior at WSHS, had always been encouraged by her parents to pursue college, setting a path no one in her family had yet taken in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Westerville North High School senior Muna Ali learned from her parents that college was a path to social mobility.
All three Westerville students are now college-bound after receiving full four-year scholarships through QuestBridge’s National College Match, a program that connects high-achieving high school seniors from low-income backgrounds with scholarships to the country’s top universities.
“Even today, I can’t believe it,” said Oyewusi, who will attend Colgate University in New York to study neuroscience and film studies. “You would never expect it would happen to you.”
QuestBridge partners with 42 colleges and universities in the U.S. to offer the National College Match scholarship. The scholarship covers the full cost of attendance for each college — including tuition, room and board, travel expenses, and books and supplies — with no student loans. Some scholarships require some type of student contribution in the form of work-study or student savings.
In 2020, 6,885 students were selected as National College Match Finalists out of more than 18,500 applications.
Oyewusi, Okyere and Ali are among 1,464 finalists who matched with a college or university of their choice.
“It’s a great honor to be a part of this,” said Okyere, who is headed to Bowdoin College in Maine to study philosophy and computer science.
All three started their QuestBridge journey as a junior through the College Prep Scholars program, which equipped them with resources and connected them with peers across the country going through the National College Match’s application process.
When it came to identifying colleges to match with, Okyere was interested in a liberal arts education that offered different fields of study to explore. Oyewusi sought out liberal arts colleges with a strong neuroscience program. Ali looked at out-of-state colleges with an interest in studying political science.
“I’m very passionate about understanding different forms of social injustice and how to handle those forms of injustice,” said Ali, who will attend Columbia University. “I think that political science, sociology, those humanities-based social sciences, would really help me further understand the social injustices that occur today.”
Oyewusi initially discovered Colgate after seeing videos of the campus on TikTok. But after learning more about the university, she discovered Colgate aligned with her interests.
“My family has this saying: ‘Do something with your head. Do something with heart,’ ” she said. “So both of my majors relate to that.”
She is interested in neuroscience to support her goal of becoming a pediatric psychiatrist and her passion for movies and music inspired her to double major in film studies.
Okyere discovered that a member of his church was a Bowdoin alumnus and talked to him about the benefits of a liberal arts education. He was drawn to the close-knit student community at Bowdoin and its smaller class sizes and he liked the opportunity to dive into philosophy and computer science at a deeper level as well as explore his interests in music and art.
At WSHS, Okyere has played tennis and has been a drummer in the concert and marching bands. This year, he was named a section leader for the marching band. He is president of the school’s National Honors Society and has also been a member of several organizations including Key Club and STEAM Club.
As for his future plans, he’s eyeing a career as a research scientist but is open to other possibilities.
Meanwhile, Oyewusi competed on WSHS’ cross-country and swim teams and was named a cross-country captain. She has been a member of multiple organizations including Key Club, Interact Club and National Honors Society, where she is currently the historian. She is also part of the school’s Black History Month program and has been involved in several school productions.
Oyewusi is thankful to have found QuestBridge and to have the opportunity to attend college without taking a college loan.
“This whole process is already stressful enough as it is but for low-income students, it’s even more stressful,” she said. “For most of the time, it’s not ‘Am I smart enough?’ It’s ‘Can I afford it?’ ”
At WNHS, Ali has been involved with and currently runs the Students for Good Government club which is focused on understanding and promoting civic engagement among the school’s student body. The group has also hosted debates on current events as well as a voter registration drive. She is also a Global Scholar and as part of her senior project, she is developing a podcast on her interviews with community organizers across the country.
“The main goal of my podcast is to figure out how community-based organizers are working to solve global issues like racism, discrimination, etc. in their own backyards and how they are impacting the global stage locally,” she said.
Ali, who has been involved in Mock Trial programs since middle school, is considering a career in law.
She said the opportunity to follow her college dreams as a QuestBridge scholarship recipient means a lot.
“I’m just really thankful for everyone who has helped me get to this point: my parents, teachers, coaches and everyone who had an influence on me,” she said. “I am genuinely grateful and super excited to go to New York and live out my dreams and get the education of a lifetime.”