Christicel Okeke, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants who desired to provide a better life for their children, always wanted to make her parents proud by employing the resources and education given to her in the United States.
In 2015, she began her collegiate academic journey at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte determined to fulfill her goal of one-day becoming a veterinarian. After graduating with a bachelor’s in biology in 2018, life changes led her back to her hometown of Durham, N.C., where she believes her path to fulfilling her purpose began.
Relying on her Christian faith, Okeke fasted and prayed regarding the next steps in her journey, and the answer was noticeably revealed to her through family and friends.
“A lot of people suggested I pursue nursing due to my passionate, empathetic and nurturing nature, said Okeke. “One day, I took a leap of faith, and stopped by North Carolina Central University’s (NCCU) Department of Nursing building where faculty and staff members graciously answered my questions about the various degree programs offered. From that moment forward, I knew that NCCU was right for me to embark on my nursing career journey.”
In 2020, Okeke began NCCU’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree program, and throughout her journey at the university, she has soared by receiving various scholarships and engaging in several campus activities and organizations, including the Nursing Department Chair Student Advisory Council; NCCU COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic; Student Nurses Association; and multiple honors societies, including the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.
She also participated in the Duke University’s Leading to Equitable Access to Health Professions (LEAHP) program, a weeklong experience that provides mentorship in order to increase undergraduate nursing students' readiness for successful entry into advanced practice nursing programs.
Okeke admits that pursuing her nursing degree in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic caused her to lose courage at times, but the NCCU nursing department faculty and staff provided her with the support and encouragement that she needed to propel her across the finish line.
“This experience has developed me both personally and professionally in a multitude of ways, and the support from the NCCU nursing department faculty and staff has been unmatched,” she said. “The program has prepared me to handle the anticipated challenges of the healthcare field not only as a minority, but also as an upcoming new graduate nurse.”
On Dec. 11, 2021, Okeke graduated from the accelerated program at the top of her class. Her five-year goal is to complete a graduate nursing program and become a nurse practitioner who specializes in providing cost-effective healthcare to women of color and other minority populations.
“I truly do believe nursing is my calling and I thank Jesus Christ for leading me to it,” she said. “I love the experiences I have gained working with people of diverse demographics and cultures, providing care for them, learning about my patients and listening to their stories. Though my journey has been an unforgettable one, I would not have changed a thing, and I hope that it encourages the upcoming classes to never give up.”
Her advice for future Eagles? “Be kind to yourself and give yourself grace throughout your journey in school, no matter the concentration or major. Be a team player, get involved, and never ever give up on yourself. You can achieve anything you set your mind to accomplish."