Rotimi Kukoyi, a high school senior from Hoover, Alabama, was chosen to be on “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament in 2018. There, he met other high-achieving students from all over the country.
“It was an enjoyable experience, and it put me in touch with some pretty cool students from all over the country,” Kukoyi told ABC News. “Many are older and have applied to prestigious schools as seniors or juniors.”
That was what got him started. Now, Kukoyi has been accepted to more than 15 top universities, including Stanford, Yale, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, Vanderbilt, Emory, Rice, Johns Hopkins, Duke, the University of Alabama, Case Western Reserve University, UAB, Auburn University, and Washington University in St. Louis.
Now, Kukoyi, who is the first Black National Merit Scholar from his school, has been accepted to more than 15 top colleges, including Stanford, Yale, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, Vanderbilt, Emory, Rice, Johns Hopkins, Duke, the University of Alabama, Case Western Reserve University, UAB, Auburn University, and Washington University in St. Louis.
There is even more. Kukoyi has also been offered scholarships totaling more than $2 million.
Still, Kukoyi had so many great options and scholarships that it was hard for him to choose between Harvard and Yale as the best school for him.
He chose the University of North Carolina in the end.
Kukoyi said that choosing a college was “the most painful thing” he had ever done, but he chose UNC because their scholarship program would give him freedom.
In an Instagram post, Kukoyi said, “I get to choose how to follow my passions because I have a personalized advising team and a program network.”
The Impact of Covid on Kukoyi Life
The pandemic and the teen’s work with the Alabama Department of Health to help people get vaccinated affected his decision to go into Health Policy and Management.
In August, Kukoyi was one of four winners of a TikTok contest for Alabamians between the ages of 13 and 29 that the state health department put on. Before the school year started, the department held a contest to get students vaccinated against Covid-19.
At that time, Alabama had the lowest rate of vaccinations in the U.S., which Kukoyi pointed out in his video.
In the text of the video, he said, “Why then did I get the shot? This is what I do “. He then said that Covid deaths shouldn’t be “normalized” and that the vaccines are “safe and effective.”
Kukoyi told ABC News, “Covid interested me in public health because it was the first time I saw how clear the health disparities were.” “African Americans had a much higher chance of dying from Covid than white Americans. It was almost like two separate pandemics affected our country, and some people were left out and affected way more.”
Kukoyi Wants To Inspire Students.
Now that Kukoyi is making college plans, he hopes to inspire other students to apply to schools they might not have thought of before.
“Many of the kids I talked to didn’t think they could apply to or get into the bigger schools,” or they were worried about how much it would cost. “But students also have access to other tools that can help with that.”
“…Many of these more selective schools offer much more financial aid than state schools,” he said.
Kukoyi also said that, as the only Black male student in all his classes, he wants to change things so that students from underrepresented groups and lower incomes have the same chances to learn as their peers.
Kukoyi and the other finalists for the National Merit Scholarship set up free tutoring for students who need more help in school or want to take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
“I feel like a lot of the differences we see on standardized tests are because underrepresented minorities in low-income communities often can’t afford the same test preparation as their wealthier peers,” he said. “So if we set up free tutoring programs, that could help make the playing field fairer.”
In a picture with no date, Rotimi Kukoyi is playing soccer.
Kukoyi, born to immigrants, is not only a top student but also plays soccer and was a Government School Student. Still, he says he wants to be known for helping people, not for everything he has done.
He said, “I want my legacy to be something that helps other people.” “I guess many people can forget what it’s all about when trying to reach their own goals.”