Mary Ogunji Strives to be Different

By Camila Thomas

When you first meet Mary Ogunji, you might get the wrong impression. Ogunji says a lot of people assume she is quiet and reserved, the total opposite of her personality. This 15-year old sophomore is more than what meets the eye.

Born in Africa and passionate about Asia, Ogunji is proud of her uniqueness, even as she is one of a pair of twins.

Mary was born on July 28 in Lagos, Nigeria. She moved from Nigeria to the United States at the age of seven, with her family. Ogunji lives in the Bronx with her mother, two older siblings, and her twin sister Sara. Her father died when she was just eight years old. She says she has a close relationship with her family, especially with her twin sister.

Although she admits to having similar interests and preferences as her twin, Ogunji dislikes being compared to her, and says she wants people to see them as “thinking individuals,” not a pair. According to her, people see them together and automatically think they are the same, which is not true.

Ogunji says people think she and Sara never fight and have the exact same taste in everything. “Sometimes we fight, but the week after we say, “I love you” to each other”, says Ogunji.

Always striving to assert her own personality, Ogunji admitted to having some unusual passions. Her hobbies include watching Korean dramas, reading mangas and watching anime at home. Her passion for Asia has motivated her to learn more about Korea and Japan. She also enjoys writing fiction and poems in her free time.

“I’m not sure why, but I really like Asian culture,” she reveals with a smile.

The way she carries herself may trick people into thinking she is naïve or shy.

She says that people often judge her for her looks without getting to know her first. People have a completely different impression after they meet her. Mary says she has a more outgoing personality, and she says she is not as shy as people think she is.

“People think I’m mean because I say what’s on my mind”, she says. Ogunji says she dislikes people who talk behind others’ backs.

She also said that because she is good at math, a lot of her classmates come to her expecting to get the answers, instead of learning how to do the problems. She says helping people is about teaching them, not giving them the answers to everything.

Ogunji is also used to people judging where she comes from without knowing much about it.

Since she arrived in the United States, Ogunji has heard countless stereotypes about Africa. When asked about this, her eyes rolled immediately. She acknowledges there are parts of Africa that are very poor, and blames corrupted politicians for this problem. But she adds that there is much more to the continent than its poverty. Back in Nigeria, for example, one of her aunts owns a school.

“Africa is not what people think it is,” she says. Ogunji thinks one of Nigeria’s problems is overpopulation. According to Wikipedia, Lagos is the second fastest growing city in Africa and the seventh fastest growing city in the world. Although Ogunji says there are parts of Nigeria that are poor, she says there also wealthy neighborhoods.

Ogunji attends the New Visions Charter School for the Humanities at the John F. Kennedy Campus. She will be part of the first graduating class in 2015, which she says she is very proud of because it gives her the right to say that she was one of the first students at her school.

She applied for the Lehman College Now program this summer and got accepted. She also looked up other summer programs and applied for a program about law. Ogunji chose College Now over others she applied for because of the prospect of getting college credits during high school. She also thinks taking a journalism class could strengthen her writing skills. She says interviewing people is fun and interesting.

Ogunji says she has not considered pursuing a career in journalism, but she watches the news constantly to stay informed, especially CNN and News12 for weather forecasts. Ogunji wants to study law and become a prosecutor in the future.  She says she would also like to get a minor in philosophy, a subject she finds interesting and wants to learn more about.

Her friend Raphia Ngoutane, who also attends New Visions Charter School for Humanities, met her during their freshman year and they have been friends ever since.

“She’s a very good friend,” Ngoutane said. “When her friends are down she always tries to cheer them up.” She says she met Ogunji’s twin sister before meeting her and added that the twins are similar but that “Mary is the most outspoken one”.

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