Two years after graduating from Roosevelt University with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in secondary education, Ayodeji Ogunniyi is becoming nationally known as a teacher who overcame significant adversity in order to help others.
The 2009 graduate, whose father was murdered in 2005 while driving his cab in Evergreen Park, Ill., recently visited the White House where he helped U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and others launch the National Teachers Initiative.
During the launch, Ogunniyi, whose story has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Roosevelt Review, said: “Being a teacher is very, very hard. I never knew it until I became one…I think it’s one of the greatest occupations one can have.”
Ogunniyi, who did his Roosevelt student teaching at Thornwood High School, wanted to become a teacher after his father died so he could help young people avoid getting in the sort of trouble that the young people accused of killing his father were in.
Hired on as a full-time English teacher at Thornwood, and now teaching at Thornton High School in South Holland, Ogunniyi has credited his professors at Roosevelt with helping him stay on track through troubled times to get his college degree and to become a teacher.
Now his story is one of several being featured by Story Corps and the Public Broadcasting System in a new oral history project about teachers that is called the National Teachers Initiative.
Portions of Ogunniyi’s recorded story were played during the launch of the initiative at the White House on Sept. 19. In addition, the Roosevelt graduate’s story is being preserved for generations to come in the archives of the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress.
“No matter what happens to you, know that there is nothing that can stop you from being someone, from being something,” Ogunniyi said to a roaring ovation during his remarks at the White House and National Teacher’s Initiative launch.
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