March 3, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 12

Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship winner Chikaelo Ibeabuchi '06 is flanked by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and University of Massachusetts-Boston Interim Chancellor J. Keith Motley, who spoke at the King Scholarship Award Banquet. (Photo by Frank Curran)

'His Influence Is Bigger Than I Can Describe'

Scholarship winner at a loss for words in his admiration for King

Ask Chikaelo Ibeabuchi '06 what role Martin Luther King Jr. has played in his life and you might not get an answer.

It's not because Ibeabuchi doesn't have something to say about the slain civil rights leader. He simply doesn't believe he has the words to adequately describe King's role in his life.

"His influence is bigger than I can describe. He is a pure example of leadership and how I want to live my life," said Ibeabuchi, who was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Scholarship on Feb. 23 at a ceremony in Lyons Hall.

"I really can't tell you what it means to now be mentioned in same breath as King," said Ibeabuchi. "It's amazing."

The scholarship, which covers three-quarters of tuition for senior year, is given annually to a Boston College junior whose achievements reflect the spirit of King's life and work.

Ibeabuchi, a communication major from Roxbury, was selected for the scholarship from a pool of five finalists [see sidebar]. Each applicant is required to fill out an application, write an essay and sit for an interview with members of the MLK Committee.

The son of Nigerian immigrants, Chikaelo is one of five siblings, including Chizoba, a senior in the Connell School of Nursing.

J. Keith Motley, interim chancellor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, presented keynote remarks at the Feb. 23 event and had some words for the students in attendance that Ibeabuchi took to heart.

"He told us that he expected to see more out of us," said Ibeabuchi. "I knew exactly what he meant."

For Ibeabuchi, King's legacy offers the same lessons in the struggle for equality and opportunities for African Americans.

"He came first and knocked down the trees and cleared the way, but we still need to go further," said Ibeabuchi. "Today, the problems are slightly different, but they still need to be challenged."

At BC, Ibeabuchi has already risen to the challenge in several different areas. He is president of the African Student Organization, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of Boston College and has served on the Thea Bowman AHANA Student Advisory Board, which is responsible for delivering the message of the services provided by AHANA Student Programs.

In 2002 Ibeabuchi received attention from the media for his efforts as a volunteer with Peace Games, a national, non-profit organization that teaches students in grades K-8 the value of cooperation, communication and friendship through simple games, skits and role-playing.

Ibeabuchi first participated in the Peace Games project as a fifth grader in Roxbury's Mission Grammar School, and continues to be actively involved with the organization to pass on the lessons he learned to other children.

"The hardest part is getting younger kids to see all that they can achieve," said Ibeabuchi. "Children need to be empowered to take advantage of educational opportunities.

"King knew that and he set us on this path, but we have to see how far we can go," said Ibeabuchi. "We still need to go further and there's still a lot of work to be done."

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