What’s in a name?

BY Dexter McCree, Feature Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Margaret Moku-olu grew up in the small city of Eket, Akwa Ibom in Nigeria. Located in the southern part of Nigeria, it is known for its oil resources.

She lived in a two-parent household with five other siblings. Her father, Udo Matthew Edimoh, was the strong disciplinarian, while her mother, Inyang Udo Matthew, was the loving caretaker.

Margaret and her siblings understood that dad was the dominant voice in the home, and mom could always sweeten a sour spot in a day. There is one resounding message that’s clear — don’t mess up the family name.

The second oldest of the six siblings, Margaret is most proud of the fact that the family worked and did not depend on government subsidy. In school, she was always first or second in the class ranking. In elementary, she was involved in activities such as the debate club, which she loved.  She is a fast runner, so she participated in track, running the100-meter race.

Describing the structure of the Nigerian school system is noteworthy. There, a student will spend six years in elementary as we did once upon a time. Then students spend six years in secondary school, three years in juniors and three years in seniors. The senior level is the equivalent of an American high school.

By the time Margaret got to juniors, she was an avid debater. She was also very competitive.

“I liked talking about the different subjects, speaking before an audience and doing research. We had competition with other school debaters, and I loved it,” said Margaret. “The competition is very challenging, but it feels so much better when our school would win.”

Margaret’s competitive spirit comes from her household and the expectation to achieve. A level of excellence is what the family sought in everything.

She recalled as a youngster coming home from school one day being excited about her achievements. When she shared her accomplishment, her dad simply reminded her that first position is what was expected and her accomplishment was no big deal.

She was supposed to be the best, and you don’t get presents and gifts for doing what is expected.

The moment was crushing for Margaret. She wanted to hear that she had done a great job and other words of endearment. Although that moment was a downer, it’s a big reason why she is successful.

Margaret did get some satisfaction that day. Her mom prepared her favorite meal that night as sort of a smile and wink good job. The overall message is you don’t bring shame to the family name. No matter what!

In 2012, her sister was kidnapped for 11 days in Nigeria, prompting Margaret to leave her country and her husband behind and flee with her three daughters.

Before leaving, she had a growing career in sales and marketing but wasn’t able to find a job in the States, so she decided to go back to school at St. Petersburg College (SPC). While here in school, her friend back home died giving birth, which motivated Margaret to pursue a career in nursing.

Through many challenges, she maintained a 4.0 grade point average and graduated cum laude with an Associate of Science in nursing last month. She is preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination, which is a nationwide examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States and Canada.

Margaret wants to be a midwife and join an international medical mission team. One potential group is World Health Organization. The group travels around the world focusing on helping women and their family to improve health and wellness.

Perhaps her most significant achievement is maintaining a lovely family. She has been happily married to Phillip Moku-olu for 18 years and counting. Together they have three girls to make up the family.

“Phillip works in Africa to support his family here in the States,” explained Margaret. “The children and I are indebted to his loving care, sacrifices and financial support. Without him, it will not be possible for us to live here.”

Along with family support, Margaret credits Lynne Wolf, a career Specialist at SPC, with being a tremendous influence on her college experience.

Among her short-term goals is to meet SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams, whom she greatly admires.  Both Margaret and Dr. Williams have brought honor to their family’s name.

To reach Dexter McCree, email dmccree@theweeklychallenger.com

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