Shooting for the Stars
What are the chances of growing up as a girl in a poor Nigerian village and obtaining a degree from a U.S. College? What are the chances of that same girl learning to fly a plane? What are the chances that she would become an aerospace engineer?
Escape Velocity is the incredible true story of that young woman–Onyema Ajuogu and her inspirational journey to realize her dreams. As a child, Onyema saw an enchanting picture of beautiful flowers on a cover of magazine that said “Sweet Home Alabama.” Little could she, or anyone else at the time, have imagined that driven by incredible faith and an unstoppable spirit, full of curiosity, Onyema later would attend school in that very same State.
When Onyema was eight years old and saw a plane fly over her village for the first time , her dreams took flight. She believed that one day she would fly a plane and with tremendous resilience, courage and unbreakable resolution Onyema found a way to go even further than just becoming a pilot.
Onyema’s journey takes her from the villages of Nigeria, to some of the most prestigious institutions in the United States. Her path is teeming with characters, many of whom generously helped her in times of need, and at critical moments stepped upto support her. Other people tried to exploit her, even trying to enslave her. However, Onyema was never deterred, always doing what she needed to succeed even if that meant working four jobs to support herself while taking university courses.
In aerospace terminology, Escape Velocity is the speed needed to pull clear of earth’s gravity. Onyema’s story is about escape velocity of a different kind; the force needed to escape destitution, hardships, gender, socioeconomic and national gravitational pulls. It is a message of hope for anyone who has a dream, especially one that seems not just unlikely but unreachable.
Having achieved the seemingly impossible, Onyema is now an inspirational role model for young people everywhere and has started her own foundation to encourage others, particularly women from less developed countries, to emulate her remarkable achievements. In order to increase the awareness of science, technology engineering and math (STEM) education for women in developing countries, Onyema also has the goal of teaching young women from these countries how to build an airplane.
What are the odds of a poor girl, growing up without a mother or a father in the home; having to sell things to buy her text books and to support her family; work as a house maid; constantly researching on internet to find a way of being accepted by a U.S. university?
How is it possible that a poor girl, arriving in the USA, with absolutely no money, stranded at the airport and knowing no one, would still realize her dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer?
For Onyema Ajuogu and those she is helping, it is more than possible. It is happening now.
For people like Onyema, the odds just don’t matter. For some people, faith is more important than probability, resilience more important than chance, belief more important than constraints.