by Emily Brehe-Gunter

Temi is a recent Cornell University graduate living in Atlanta with her family. When she’s not working on law school applications, she likes to read, spend time with her younger sisters, and take online courses to further her education.

Temi plans to pursue a JD/MBA that will help her prepare for a career in politics or criminal justice. She wants to use her education and background to help improve the lives of others.

“I’m really interested in working with people who have left prison. I worked as a teacher’s assistant at a prison before COVID shut everything down. I got to visit the prison and work with some brilliant students,” she says.

The High School Years

Temi and her family have lived all over the world, but she spent her high school years attending an all-girls Catholic school in Nigeria.

Temi and Tosin, her twin sister, worked hard to reach the top of their class, started several clubs, and became involved in law enforcement within their school.

“We were prefects, which is similar to what they had in Harry Potter where a few students were in charge of the others. I was part of a team of 15-20 students, and we were given cool badges. We enforced the rules around the school: handled morning assembly, solved disputes, took care of the lunch rush. It was challenging but fun to learn how to do this efficiently and fairly,” Temi says.

One summer, Temi and her twin sister temporarily stayed with relatives so they could attend test prep classes at KD College Prep. She remembers memorizing vocabulary for the SAT® and ACT® tests and showing up early for classes.

“I thought the teachers were really nice, and the classes were straightforward…I liked the worksheets that we did in class, and then we’d go over them together. That was something very beneficial for me. It was nice to have a schedule—come in, do the work, and then go,” Temi says.

By the end of high school, Temi and Tosin were the only two students to receive service awards highlighting their contributions to the community.

When asked what advice she’d give to her high school self, Temi says to continue living in the moment and learn to love your surroundings.

“Appreciate being in Nigeria because sometimes you’ll really miss being back in Nigeria. Continue enjoying the simplicity of life,” she says.

Life As a Cornell Student

Right away, Temi fell in love with Cornell’s campus.

“The campus sprawls across a very wide area, and I always walked to class. The weather was beautiful. I mean, it was cold, but it was a beautiful place to live. Lots of waterfalls and great places to stargaze,” Temi says.

During her sophomore year, she started a YouTube channel for incoming students. Her videos received thousands of views, and she was even stopped once or twice by students who recognized her from her channel.

She also started a natural hair club. She attended events, managed a team, and provided resources for students with natural hair like her.

“I had the freedom in between classes to do these projects. I had lots of resources on hand because it’s a pretty well known school,” she says.

A “must-see” spot to check out during a Cornell campus visit is the clocktower.

“Go to the clocktower because you can climb 161 steps, and at the very top you’ll see the chimesmaster. You can play any type of music you want. I’ve definitely requested a few Disney songs. And then you’ll hear the music playing all over campus. It’s wonderful,” she says.

Burning the Midnight Oil

Temi said that at first she was surprised by how difficult her college classes were. In Nigeria, she didn’t have the opportunity to take college level courses in high school like many of her peers at Cornell.

Eventually, she overcame this challenge by learning how to study accordingly and spending lots of time at the library.

“Hard work is really important. My grandpa always tells me to be the last person in the library, to burn the midnight oil, even when everyone is gone,” Temi said.

There were also times when Temi wasn’t sure about what career path she would pursue. Over time, she learned about a program that would give her hands-on experience in the criminal justice sphere.

A Classroom Full of Paintings

Through Cornell, Temi and some friends signed up for a program that involved teaching students at a nearby prison.

“Every week we’d drive to the prison. The exterior itself was quite depressing: crows flapping about a depressing gray building. As the guards escorted us through the gates, people would cat-called us. Everything changed, however, when we arrived at the school building. We’d enter these classrooms full of paintings on the wall that really threw light on the campus. The students came in, and they were just so excited to learn,” Temi says.

This unique opportunity gave her a new perspective and showed her a glimpse of the many ways she could apply her interest in criminal justice.

While her time with these students was cut short due to the pandemic, she hopes to find similar opportunities in the future.

“My experience with these brilliant students made me realize that a lot of them would thrive in the college environment if given the opportunity. Some of them were even better students than my own peers at Cornell. With a JD/MBA, I’d be able to create opportunities for students like these to pursue higher education, by establishing an organization or something of the sort. I know there are so many options and lots of ways to help people, so I’m pursuing that and hope that’s what happens in my future,” Temi said.

While she waits to hear back about her law school applications, Temi plans to continue her education by studying new things through Coursera. She recently became engaged, and wedding planning has also been a fun way to spend time as well.

Emily Brehe-Gunter is a marketing and communications specialist at KD College Prep.