N.J. teen sets school district academic record. Next up, Harvard
As a high schooler in Newark, Achunike Okafor says that all he tried to do was work hard each and every day.
Dedicating seven hours a night to his studies was not uncommon, Okafor said, but it was only to be a decent student. So when he learned that he is the new record holder for the highest GPA in the school district, the 18-year-old graduate said the news came as a shock.
“I couldn’t believe my four years of hard work could amount to this,” he said. “My goal was to just get into college. This was unexpected, but I’m extremely grateful for it.”
Okafor exited Science Park High School with a GPA of 4.625, which the Science Park High School Principal, Darleen Gearhart, says is the highest ever in Newark. That earned him more than 40 scholarship offers to some of the nation’s top universities – including Harvard, where he will enter the freshman class in the fall to study neuroscience and film on a full ride.
“I have a need and want to serve others around me,” Okafor told NJ Advance Media. “That’s been my biggest motivation.”
Science Park High School, which has about 1,000 students, is located in the heart of Newark. A magnet school, it focuses on offering high-quality education to students with a passion for STEM and the arts.
Okafor credits a lot of his success to his father, Godfrey Okafor, a high school algebra teacher who taught him early on that education is a path to future success.
“My dad made it clear to me that having a college degree should be priority,” Okafor explained. “He told me that success comes from hard work and will lead to financial stability.”
Okafor was also a member of the International Baccalaureate program, which helps create a better and more peaceful world through education, and the Audible Future Leaders program, a paid internship and college scholarship program for Newark high school students. Both, he says, taught him time management skills and how to prepare for the real world.
“We’re so proud of Achunike’s incredible achievements that were made possible by his hard work and tireless work ethic,” said Jeff Anderson, Director of Community Education at Audible. “The Strategy and Corporate Development team loved working with Achunike and he always excelled at his task."
Gearhart praised Okafor’s commitment.
“Achunike Okafor’s exceptional work and determination are a testament to what persistence can accomplish,” Gearhart said. “I am privileged to know such a wonderful student and impressive human being.”
Okafor says his ultimate goal is to become a doctor and give back to the city that has shaped who he is.
“A lot of people from here become successful and never look back,” Okafor added. “That isn’t how I want my story to end. I want to come back and serve Newark to the best of my ability.”