Kinesiology major, business and biochemistry double minor

Like many students, Rapha Onyeka ’22 (Baker) felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness as he prepared for his first semester at Rice. “I come from a small town where there isn’t a lot of room to grow, so the big-city feel appealed to me,” he says. “But I was also nervous about the academics and finding a group of friends. Rice gave me a really generous scholarship, and I wanted to feel worthy of that kindness.”

Once he arrived on campus for O-Week, the welcoming environment of the residential colleges made Rapha feel at home and he instantly connected with students from a variety of backgrounds. “Suddenly I was surrounded by all kinds of people, and by people who look like me, and it felt like a breath of fresh air,” Rapha remembers. He also recalls how the Baker O-Week coordinators and advisors took a keen interest in making sure Rapha would begin the semester on the right foot.

“This community has helped me and encouraged me in so many ways. I feel like it just came naturally to me to take on a leadership role where I could be part of making a difference for my fellow students.”

This experience inspired Rapha to serve as an O-Week advisor and coordinator so that he could pay that kindness forward. “I knew that I could create a similar experience for other people and make a larger contribution on campus,” he notes. “Being able to empower new students and to allow them to truly express themselves is important to me.”

In addition to volunteering for O-Week, Rapha has served as a social chair and academic fellow for Baker College, as well as represented the junior class on the Honor Council. “This community has helped me and encouraged me in so many ways,” he says. “I feel like it just came naturally to me to take on a leadership role where I could be part of making a difference for my fellow students.”

His passion for making a difference also fuels his academic work. The kinesiology major is on a pre-med track with hopes of becoming a physician. “My father is a physician, and I grew up watching him help to heal the people in our community. I think it’s just ingrained within me to help people,” he notes. Thinking ahead, Rapha also hopes to create a nonprofit startup to focus on children’s health. “That’s why I added in the business minor,” he laughs.

When Rapha reflects on his student experience — his freshman O-Week, and the opportunities for academic and personal growth — and the bright future ahead of him, he gratefully acknowledges that his scholarship made it all possible. “When I received word that I had been offered a seriously generous scholarship, I felt a huge boost of confidence,” he remembers. “I knew in my heart that I could do something to make the world a better place, and the scholarship was a sign to me that Rice, too, believed that I had potential.”

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