There is no stopping a woman who is determined to succeed.
This is the story of Paula-Peace James-Okoro who emerged Covenant University’s Best Overall Graduating Student for the 2019/2020 session.
James-Okoro graduated from the Department of Biochemistry, College of Sciences with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.98.
In this exclusive with FabWoman, the 21-year-old speaks on her achievement and how she was able to achieve this huge feat.
She also shared some advice for ladies who aim to achieve this goal on their path to success.
1.What does it feel like being the best graduating student of your set?
It feels great. I feel super elated and excited. I am very grateful that my hard work paid off and I was able to accomplish this feat. I am happy to have made everyone proud, including myself.
2.What kind of preparation helped you attain this huge feat?
I would say goal-setting, hard work, perseverance, and the help of God and my support system enabled me to attain this feat. At the beginning of this journey, I set the goal of graduating as the best of my set. This really helped set the pace for how I did things while in the university. I remained focused on that goal and consistently put it into the hard work. I was disciplined when it came to my academics, denied myself of some university “pleasures and distractions” and persevered when it seemed tough. I spent long hours reading and revising my notes as well as doing assignments and projects. I always reflected on my performance to see what I did well and what I didn’t so as to improve. I always depended on God. With all these, I was able to graduate as the best student.
3. How many awards did you win as the best graduating student?
I won about 13 awards as the best graduating student.
4.Why Biochemistry? Was it your first choice?
My first choice was medicine and surgery. However, my parents did not want me to study medicine in Nigeria. So we decided to look at possible opportunities for me to study a pre-degree in Nigeria before going for medicine overseas, as this would give me leverage. I applied to study biochemistry, which gives a strong foundation for medicine, in Covenant university and I was granted admission. That was how I ended up studying biochemistry.
5. Can you tell us about your background pre-Covenant?
I was born on the 17th of April and I hail from Abia State. I am 21 years old and the first daughter of my parents.
My primary education was at Engreg International School, Pedro, Lagos, and my secondary education at International School, University of Lagos.
I am goal-oriented and focused. In primary and secondary school, I excelled academically and often was the best in class. I am a calm, easygoing and conscientious person always looking for opportunities to grow.
I like to read, have intellectual conversations and learn new things. I always strive for excellence in anything I do and this has helped me stand out. For fun, I like to watch movies.
I am on a constant journey of discovery and development, in my personal, career life, and relationships.
6. Did you fail any course or it was smooth sailing all through for you?
I did not fail any course by God’s grace.
7. Your best and worst moment in school?
My best moment in school was when I was called out as the best graduating student with a resounding ovation from everyone. I received several awards during the hooding ceremony and the cheer of the crowd gave me a strong sense of achievement.
My worst moment was when I almost missed my tests because of a bout of stubborn malaria which I had to go home to treat.
8. What was your social life? Were there distractions from boys?
My social life was good. I had a number of friends I hung out with from time to time. I had a good relationship with people and enjoyed being around my friends. Yes, there were distractions from boys. But I had made a decision that I was not going to get into a relationship until at least 300 level. This helped me resist distractions from them. When I did in my final year, I properly planned with him how we would balance the relationship with our academics and even spurred each other to read.
9. The one thing you will miss most about Covenant?
What I will miss most about Covenant is the people I met there. I met amazing people at Covenant who helped me grow and made the journey more worthwhile. I will also miss the serene and beautiful environment at Covenant University.
10. How did your parents react when you told them you were finishing as the best student?
They were overjoyed. I could feel how proud they were of me as they kept on saying it. They were also very grateful to God for making it possible.
11. What are your next plans? Masters?Marriage?
I intend to further my studies and obtain a higher degree. I am aiming for a Ph.D. in Biomedical Science.
12. Your advice to females who also want to attain academic excellence?
You don’t experience what you don’t expect. First, desire and expect to excel academically. Have a positive mindset. Then be ready and willing to put in the hard work. Be ready to pay the price for success. Read your books and face your academics squarely.
If you try to juggle so many things with your academics, it may affect your performance. The distractions will be there, but you have to discipline yourself to look away so you don’t regret it at the end of the day. Remain focused on your goal and do not relent or give up. If you don’t perform to your expectation, don’t let it dissuade you. Learn from it, pick yourself up and try again. You can achieve academic excellence, it’s in you!
Choose your friends wisely, don’t follow the bandwagon. If you want to excel academically, your group of friends should also have similar goals as you. Ladies, the guys will come along and may try to derail you, resist them. The right and responsible one will come at the right time. Put in your best and let God do the rest.
13. Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
In the next 10 years, I see myself owning a reputable pharmaceutical or biomedical research institute. This is because I am fascinated by the way biological processes and systems work and how diseases are treated with drugs.
I would love to lead and carry out industrial research that would bring about novel and improved therapeutics and solutions to the emerging diseases in today’s world and in turn improve the quality of health and life. I also want to establish an orphanage and child care centre as I am passionate about children.