MCC alum becomes Maryville University’s youngest African-American grad

MCC alumna Rapulu Okolo, 19, recently received a B.S. in sports management from Maryville University in St. Louis. (Photos courtesy of Maryville University)

Rapulu Okolo continues to flourish after seizing the opportunity to launch her educational and professional dreams at Metropolitan Community College.

She attended MCC’s Early College Academy at MCC-Penn Valley while a high school student at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts in Kansas City. She graduated in May 2017, earning both her high school diploma and MCC associate degree.

Now she’s taken the next step and graduated from Maryville University, a private institution in St. Louis, with a bachelor of science degree in sports management.

She set herself apart in doing so. At 19, Okolo became the youngest African American to graduate from Maryville University. She also graduated summa cum laude.

Meanwhile, she’s still a student at the institution, enrolled in Maryville University’s Early Access program. That allows students to earn credits toward a master’s degree in business administration while completing their undergraduate degree. Okolo said she will complete her MBA next summer.

Okolo’s advice for students: Think long-term — what impact do you want to create with your life?

“I’ve always been set on education as a steppingstone to a greater opportunity in life,” she says. Her overall goal is to complete her college education by the time she turns 21.

But Okolo may not be done after completing her MBA. She is exploring advanced degree options, which included a visit to the Harvard Business School.

Okolo says her days at MCC gave her the opportunity to create her own path. She says being exposed to college life while still in high school equipped her with tools to fuel her success.

“Learning to balance obligations, properly advocate for myself and know what it means to find a support system means the most,” she says.

She says many of the friendships she’s formed along the way have become lifelong.

At Maryville, she participated in the Rawlings Sport Business Management program. Her career plans still include a job that allows her to focus on inclusion and advocacy in sports or technology. She’s getting her feet wet this summer by working as a BOLD (Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development) intern at Google, helping to enhance to enhance equity, diversity and inclusion within the company.

“My work directly aligns with my purpose and what I find of true value,” she says.

Okolo says any student can attain the same success she’s experienced: “It won’t work unless you do.”

She says the key is to not necessarily focus on what you want to do right now but think about the impact you wish to create with your life.

“School is vitally important but so is fostering a community of support and empowerment,” she says, adding that people should find ways to continually give back and work with others to make the world a better place.

Related story on Rapulu Okolo: This MCC alumna sees a future working as a change agent in sports or tech (October 2018)