Onyema B. Ajuogu founded Benignant STEM Innovation as a means of giving back to young women from developing countries who struggle to overcome insurmountable obstacles in their lives. The focus of the Foundation is to create a vehicle to support young people in the pursuit of their education. Overall, the goal is to increase the availability of science, technology and engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for women in developing countries.
Onyema has personal experience with having a passion for a education but lacking resources to pursue it. Originally from Orlu, Imo state (Igbo tribe) in Nigeria, Onyema was raised in a very poor family. Family members often didn’t have food for days at a time. They were among the poorest families in their community. Onyema lived with her grandmother and younger sister because her single mother at the time had to work in another city. Often earning less than a dollar a day, her mother struggled to provide bare essentials to the family. Onyema often missed weeks of school because her mother could not pay the school fees.
As a young girl, Onyema heard a sound overhead, and looking up, she saw an airplane for the first time. The sight captured her imagination and from that moment Onyema dreamed of flying airplanes. Onyema defied overwhelming odds by coming to the United States and not only completing her education but realizing her dreams. Coming to the United States with no money and knowing no one, she did the seemingly impossible by not only becoming a pilot but qualifying as an aerospace engineer. Her amazing story of resilience, character and hope is the subject of Onyema’s soon-to-be released memoir “Escape Velocity”.