Emeka Okekeocha (Mr. O.)

Passion, experience, and belief are three key qualities in a mentor, and they are something Emeka Okekeocha has in spades. Originally from Nigeria, Emeka received his bachelor’s in Physics from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and has gone on to work as an at-risk afterschool program coordinator, makerspace instructor, behavior management specialist, and tutor at Valley Christian Schools. He is currently pursuing his master’s in Education: Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). One of his passions is to introduce students to the world of STEAM—especially minority students who are historically underrepresented in the fields of science and technology. This has made him a perfect fit as a mentor at Andrew P. Hill High School for the last two years, where he has learned the importance of building relationships with students to overcome the barriers they don’t think they can cross. “I saw firsthand the importance of belief. At the beginning of each year, the students were certain they were not ‘smart enough’ to complete the project. But through our conversations on growth mindset, encouraging them, and teaching in a manner that made sense to them, I saw their confidence grow which helped them complete the project.” Emeka also learned the importance of play and creating programs based on the interest of the students. “One of the students was very keen on music. So when we introduced the LEGO software, we taught them how to use it to make some music notes and gave them the opportunity to play with the software. By the end of that class, he had made a beat and playfully sang to it. He turned out to be the go-to guy for software questions from his peers.”