By: Sierra Brown
Nneka Okoro is a senior microbiology major, with a minor in public health and Uzoamaka Chukka is a sophomore cellular biology major also pursuing a minor in public health. Both women are active members of UGA’s African Student Union (ASU) and were nominated for their outstanding commitment and dedicated efforts to making an impact on campus.
Nneka Okoro is a first generation Nigerian American student. She has been a member of ASU since her freshman year in college. In past years she performed in ASU’s bi-annual African Night productions, however, this Spring she served as the Cultural Secretary for ASU, while also taking on the ambitious role as director of this semester’s Africa Night production. The theme of this year’s production was focused on the child marriage and rape culture in Kenya. She says the inspiration was spun from her own visit to Nigeria where she was able to witness first hand how young many of the brides were. She says she and the committee decided to interweave this theme with the current heavy concerns within the US around sexual assault and human trafficking. Okoro shares that her experience and work with ASU and Africa Night specifically has been a life changing experience and states that being a part of ASU has been so important to her because “It is important to know where you come from and highlight african culture.” She says that the ASU community not only prevents her from losing sight of her culture, but also allows her to learn about the many different African cultures and bridge the gaps of knowledge and exposure. Okoro attests that after her robust experience with ASU she now hopes to continue being apart of other organizations beyond college that allow her to keep connecting with other people that are equally as passionate about sharing and celebrating African culture. She also learned through her work with Africa Night that she has a passion for acting and hopes to pursue it further as a hobby.
In addition to her efforts within ASU, Okoro has been an active member and positive influence in the Athens community and beyond. In 2018, she worked with BEST, a mentoring organization on campus for first year students and from 2017 to 2018 she served as a mentor for Whatever It Takes, a local mentoring program for students in the local Athens Clarke County High School. As a pre-med student, Okoro has also volunteered over 100 hours at Atlanta Medical Center’s south campus. To top it off, She also runs a Youtube channel with four of her friends called Just Us. The channel focuses on sharing positive messages for students about topics such as, letting go, body positivity, and female empowerment. As Nneka prepares to graduate and transitions to her next phase in life, we look forward to seeing the impact she makes outside of UGA.
Uzoamaka Chukka got involved with ASU in her freshman year at UGA as well. The experience and community was so important to her that she took on the role of Outreach Chair or the organization in her second year. In this role, Chukka spent 2 months researching meaningful cause to fundraise for the school year. She eventually found Pad Heaven, a non-profit, run by Florence Kamaitha in Kenya. The organization works to raise funds to provide “Dignity Kits” to young girls in Kenya to educate them about their body and provide them with the resources to attend school during their menstrual periods. Each Dignity Kit has 3 reusable pads, underwear, a bar of soap, a wash cloth, and the Path to Womanhood book, witten by Kamaitha. In order to contribute to this cause, Chukka decided to put on an educational gala. She says she always knew she wanted to do a gala because she wanted to create a space to educate students about the issues she was fundraising for rather than just entertaining them. The gala, titled “The Prestige: A Royal Affair”, was opened with an imovie premiere that explained the issue of Period Poverty, what Pad Heaven was, and how they funds raise would help the cause. The event also featured dance performances, spoken word, and a fashion show. The gala took place in the Fall 2018 semester and raised over $1,100 for Pad Heaven.
Over Spring Break, Chukka took her devotion to the Pad Heaven cause even further by visiting the founder in Kenya and learning about the process and purpose for creating the Dignity Kits. After this robust, challenging and eye-opening experience, Chukka now plans to start her own chapter of Pad Heaven on the UGA campus as a student organization in the Fall. Chukka says, that before becoming involved with Pad Heaven, she didn’t have much knowledge about the issue of period poverty in Kenya, but the experience has opened her eyes and inspired her to pursue a career in public health. She wants the new chapter to be centered around mentorship. All-in-all Chukka hopes to continue to us her resources and network to continue fighting for international public health issues in the best way she can. Outside of ASU, Chukka also attends MSSA meetings, Nanka School Project Meetings, and tries to perform in Caribbean Night productions. As a lasting impression in the Athens community, Chukka wants people to realize that “the sky shouldn’t be your limit, it should be your starting place.”