An Alabama high school senior was accepted to more than 15 top universities and awarded a total of more than $2 million in scholarship offers.
Rotimi Kukoyi got into Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt and Duke universities, among others. Ultimately, he decided to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he will study Health Policy and Management on the school’s prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship.
“With this scholarship, I’m able to choose the path less traveled by—the road not taken—and define my own journey. And have it all paid for,” Kukoyi wrote on Instagram last month. “At UNC, I hope to lay the foundations of a career driving health equity in our nation.”
Kukoyi, the child of Nigerian American immigrants, was the first Black National Merit Scholar at his school in Hoover, Alabama. He told ABC News he was inspired to apply to multiple schools after appearing on the “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament as a freshman in 2018 and connecting with high-achieving students from across the country.
“As a child of immigrants who came to the United States to secure a better future for themselves and their children through the American education system, I’ve always aspired to graduate from high school,” he wrote in a May Instagram post.
“The past 13 years of hard work have paid off, and I’m incredibly optimistic for what lies ahead. I’m thankful to the close relationships that have supported me throughout this journey, and I’m excited to watch my friends continue to succeed from afar.”
He wrote in another post that choosing a college was “the most agonizing thing I’ve ever done,” and after contemplating both Harvard and Yale, he settled on UNC because of the freedom its scholarship program would offer.
His decision to pursue a career in public health was inspired in part by the pandemic, he told ABC News. He wants his legacy to be about helping people, he said.
“COVID really sparked [my interest in public health] because that was the first time that I really saw how clear the health inequities were,” Kukoyi told ABC news. “African Americans had a much higher chance of dying from COVID than white Americans.
“It was almost like there were two separate pandemics impacting our nation, and we saw [some people] marginalized and impacted way more.”