By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
Hoover High School’s Rotimi Kukoyi, who was accepted to more than 15 universities and received $2 million in scholarship offers, has decided to attend University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to pursue a career in public health. He was awarded UNC’s prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship, the oldest merit scholarship program in the country.
When selecting a college Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Johns Hopkins were among the top universities Kukoyi had to choose from, but he ultimately went with UNC and said the pandemic is what inspired him to study public health “because that was the first time that I really saw how clear the health inequities were,” Kukoyi told ABC news. “African Americans had a much higher chance of dying from COVID than white Americans … it was almost like there were two separate pandemics impacting our nation, and we saw (some people) marginalized and impacted way more.
“I want my legacy to be one that’s focused on impacting other people. I suppose a lot of people in the pursuit of their own goals can kind of forget what it’s all about.”
Kukoyi, is also winner of the prestigious Finley award in Hoover, which is given each year to the senior from each Hoover high school and one faculty member from throughout school system who best demonstrates the character of former Berry High School coach Bob Finley, who was known for his outstanding character.
The Finley Award is given to people who set high standards for themselves, demonstrate an outstanding work ethic, have a humble manner, are honest and set a positive example for their peers. Kukoyi was one of 36 seniors at Hoover High nominated for the Finley Award this year.
Though he scored a 36 on the ACT college entrance exam — the highest possible score — and regularly makes grades of 100 or above, Kukoyi remains humble and works to assist other students in achieving success, nominators wrote.
While the Finley Award is not a popularity contest, Kukoyi is well liked and respected by both faculty and his peers, nominators said.
He is a captain on the varsity soccer team, serves on the executive council of the Hoover Ambassadors and is a senior representative in the Student Government Association. He is still weighing his college options but wants to become a doctor and address equity in the health care field, he said.
Kukoyi said he was very excited to receive the Finley Award. He moved to Hoover from South Carolina in the eighth grade, and when he was touring Bumpus Middle School, one of the first things he noticed was the list of Finley Award winners on the wall, he said.
“It’s a very big honor, and I’m grateful the community has chosen me to represent Coach Finley’s legacy,” he said.
USA Today and the Hoover Sun contributed to this post