During last week’s State of The City Address, Inglewood High School senior, Naomi Hephzibah, who was recently awarded a 4-year scholarship to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, received an additional $1000 scholarship and award for academic excellence.
An against-all-odds success story, Naomi, originally from London, England, travelled with her family to California, where they struggled financially and became entrenched in the highly bureaucratic process of gaining American citizenship. Yet, Naomi looked to her older brother, an engineering sophomore at Cornell, for inspiration and guidance.
“I had to put that aside and just focus on what I wanted to do. My older brother is a huge mentor to me because people doubted that we would be able to be successful because we didn’t have our papers or we didn’t have the finances that we needed. But, all we had to do was stay focused in school and I believe that’s what people should do. They shouldn’t let their circumstances define how successful they’re gonna be,” Hephzibah added.
Mayor James Butts introduced Naomi to the packed house at the Forum, and declared how proud both he and the City of Inglewood are of her, before presenting her with the award and scholarship. Naomi took the opportunity to thank her mom.
So just how did this Inglewood native, who had been dealt a difficult hand, manage to get into one of the top schools in the country, according to Time Magazine, US News and World Report, and The Princeton Journal?
Focus and determination are givens. She definitely had a great support system in place as well. Naomi’s mother, Joan Hephzibah credited her daughter with having leadership qualities from the time she was very young, “…She never wanted anything to limit her, she was always striving for the best, always ahead of her peers, even in school, right from when she was a little girl. I made sure she did her homework, and as a minister of the gospel, I always encourage my kids. Your circumstance doesn’t determine your altitude. I am very proud, and I commend her, she worked really hard.”