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“Living in Uganda, I used to watch the boys play soccer and longed to join them,” recalled Veronah Najjuuko. She noted it was not considered acceptable for girls to play sports, their roles typically constrained to more traditional pursuits.
Coming to the United States as a 12-year-old, her eyes were “opened to the possibilities around me.” Understanding that her parents had made the difficult decision to leave Uganda to pursue better educational opportunities for their children, Veronah decided to follow her passions and fully explore the opportunities that came her way. Her experiences in Uganda also fostered “a fierce commitment to activism – particularly for the rights of women.”
“I remember my freshman year, joining the girls’ soccer team - I felt so free, really part of a family.” That joy and drive spilled over to other areas of her life, and now the Cristo Rey Boston (CRB) senior, with aspirations to become a doctor, is applying to colleges with strong science programs.
“I like the idea of working in the medical field - it’s so broad and there are so many ways you can help people.” This past summer she participated in the Community, Opportunities and Advancement at Children’s Hospital Program (COACH). The highly competitive program offers high school students a chance to learn about medical careers through observation and mentoring.
Due to COVID, the six-week program was online, so the group focused on hospital management, using case studies to consider ways to improve the patient experience. Veronah noted “I got to shadow doctors virtually, it was a wonderful experience because I was exposed to so much.” Veronah was made aware of the program during a conversation with a member of the Corporate Work Study Program team, during a conversation about her academic interests. Kahlil Olmstead, Vice President of Gilbane Co, a long-time Corporate Work Study Program partner, was happy to write her recommendation since Veronah is a respected member of Gilbane’s team.
Although stressed by a rigorous course load that includes five advanced placement courses, Veronah is running full speed ahead. A Posse Scholar candidate, she is anxiously awaiting the results from her last round of interviews, and from her QuestBridge Scholarship application. In addition to her role as striker on the soccer team, she also manages a part-time job.
With two older siblings already at college and a younger sibling behind her who she hopes will choose CRB, Veronah is thankful for her time at Cristo Rey Boston. “I really like the staff, teachers and the people who attend CRB. They really want to see you succeed.”
Asked for words of wisdom to the lower grades, she reflected for a moment. “Don’t be rigid in your thinking; there are so many opportunities to explore. Just do your best, do not follow other people, just do “you.” Friends will find you if you are your authentic self – friends who really care.”