Destiny brings triplets to Carolina
After sisters Risi and Sheri Ademola graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill this weekend, they will head in different directions. Risi is moving to San Francisco or New York for work, while Sheri will start graduate school in Illinois. Their other sister, Rucca, graduated a semester ahead of them in December and is heading to Los Angeles for more school.
Despite the distance that will be between them, the triplets from Raleigh will maintain a common and active bond to Carolina. The trio is developing a project called iLead Nigeria, a campaign and curriculum designed to help elementary school-aged students develop skills to one day become leaders in their country.
The mission is personal for the Ademola triplets. Their parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria before the triplets were born. The sisters have visited their family there regularly since 2002.
“It won’t be right for us not to go back and help our country,” says Risi.
A moral responsibility
Risi came up with the idea for iLead as a senior at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School. Her graduation project looked at educational methods to help Nigeria youth. As part of the project, she donated school supplies and developed a leadership curriculum.
At UNC, Risi received a Bryan Social Innovation Fellowship through the Carolina Center for Public Service to expand on the idea. The fellowship is designed for students who want to make a significant change in a community through an entrepreneurial project. Fellowship team members enroll in a public policy course and receive up to $1,500 to help launch their ideas, support from staff and other students and leadership training and personal development.
All three of the Ademola sisters are working on the leadership curriculum, along with another UNC senior, Toyosi Oyelowo. They have adopted an elementary school to work with and they keep in touch with the principal there once a month. Risi will return to Nigeria this summer to further work on the program.
The iLead Nigeria curriculum includes public speaking and career development lessons, but also seeks to help the young students further develop traits such as courageousness, persistence, patience and hard work. The women hope the Nigerian students will use what they learn through the curriculum to become community leaders or leaders in their careers who will speak out about injustices.
The women hope to develop iLead Nigeria into a campus organization in which two or three Carolina students work on the program in Nigeria each summer. They would also like to expand the program to other schools in Nigeria and recruit Nigerian university students to work on the program as well.
“I feel like it is kind of like a moral responsibility for us. We’ve been blessed here,” says Rucca.
Destiny to come to Carolina together
The triplets say it was destiny that brought all three of them to Carolina. They each served in student government in high school, with Risi as president, Sheri as vice president and Rucca as secretary. By their senior year, they started to develop separate interests from each other.
While they came to Carolina together and lived together for two years, they found different ways to occupy their time. Sheri majored in psychology and by her sophomore year had started conducting neurobehavioral research in the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies in the UNC School of Medicine. Risi, a journalism major, joined a sorority and loved to dance. Rucca, who majored in women and gender studies and African, African-American, and Diaspora Studies, started practicing yoga and meditation and spent a lot of time journaling.
Risi and Sheri also spent a semester abroad in the fall, while Rucca finished her coursework at UNC early and graduated a semester ahead of her sisters. Still, the triplets came together to work on iLead Nigeria because they want children in their parents’ home country to have the opportunities they have had in the United States.
“This word ‘destiny’ really captures our moments here at Carolina,” Sheri said. “We have been so involved in different activities for four years now and toward the latter part of our college experience, we have come together for this one project. I think it is kind of interesting. I think it is a little bit striking.”
By Natalie Vizuete, University Relations.