NCLC Student on the Move: William Ukoh


William Ukoh, Newark, NJ
New Jersey Institute of Technology, Engineering
YLSP Cohort 1

It was only a few years ago that William arrived from Nigeria to start his sophomore year of high school in Newark, New Jersey. As a new student in a new country, he faced many challenges including fitting in and determining his purpose. William said, “as a kid, I would always do what my parents wanted and move on.” His only goal at the time was to go to school, get good grades and settle in. Through his participation, William gained critical decision-making skills.

As William began to adjust to school, he made friends and started getting involved in activities like wrestling. In addition, his curiosity and interest led him to apply to the Newark City of Learning Collaborative’s (NCLC) college access and preparation program, Youth Leadership and Success Project (YLSP). Through YLSP, William and the other students in his cohort were able to learn more about the college application process, meet advisors/educators, participate in social justice-based initiatives, and gain insight into the college experience.

This experience was exactly what William needed at the time. “YLSP was the first program that I attended and one that I will never forget. It really taught me about the college life and about being a good person in general. I see things very differently now,” said William. By getting early exposure to college, William and his peers were able to work on projects and assignments that would best prepare them to make decisions for college, and in general. Through various modules and reflection opportunities, William was able to gain greater insight into what he was most looking forward to in college, why, and how to get there.

Participating in YLSP not only helped William sharpen his social and leadership skills, but it also helped him determine his purpose and goals in life. William said, “The future I’m trying to build isn’t for my parents, it’s for me. This is something that I have to create and the only way that can happen is if I put in the effort and take my life seriously.” Through his active participation in the YLSP program, William became more aware of the steps he needed to take to achieve the goals he has set for himself.

The YLSP program offered William many resources including support through the college application process. William spent some time ranking his top college choices, researching what they had to offer, and planning how to apply and afford his education. William started his college journey at Rutgers University-Newark undecided but after deciding on his major of Civil Engineering, he needed to make an important decision. He was either to transfer to Rutgers University-New Brunswick to pursue his career or transfer to New Jersey Institute of Technology. After evaluating his options and referencing the decision-making skills he practiced in YLSP, he decided to transfer to New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) because it was closer to home and more affordable for him.

His journey at NJIT began virtually during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but William is now transitioning back to in-person classes. One of his biggest challenges since starting college was his responsibility to do things independently. Between coordinating his commute and balancing challenging classes, William still refers to all the lessons that his family and the Youth Leadership and Success Project (YLSP) taught him. William is now looking to get involved in the Wrestling Club at NJIT and credits his experience in YLSP for his interest in staying involved and active.

NCLC recognizes the value that YLSP and other student support programs bring to students who are looking to pursue college. Our aim is that all students from Newark gain the opportunity to access and complete post-secondary education. We hope to inspire more Newark students like William and instill confidence and readiness for their college experience.

“I am most proud of myself for not giving up, not being lazy and not trying to find excuses to not do something,” says William. His desire for Newark Students is for them to understand that going to college is a choice they make for themselves, and for no one else. If students decide to go to college, they must uphold the accountability that it requires for them to be a successful student. “College is there for you, but you have to be the one to ask for help and take initiative.”