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Last updated: 2008
Though she has been homeless, abused, and in foster care with almost no family support, Ayotunde Ajijolaiya or “Ayo” still says, “Failure is not an option.” Growing up, Ayo shared a room with four sisters and one brother, allowing them to develop an unbreakable bond. It is a bond that has helped Ayo cope with the abuse and neglect from her mother and lack of support from her father that she has faced since the age of six. Last February, Ayo was brave enough to describe to her family and social workers the physical, mental, and emotional abuse inflicted on her and her siblings by her mother. Sent to live with her father, she realized he was not at all supportive of her. Two stays in foster care only resulted in more abuse, leaving Ayo with no place to call home, disconnecting her from the sibling bond she cherishes. Ayo also had no health or dental insurance and suffered from untreated cavities, a botched root canal and sports injuries.
Despite Ayo’s emotional and physical pain, she maintains a 3.5 GPA, participates in three different varsity sports, several school clubs, and she is president of the Black Student Union. She was elected student body fundraising director by her peers when they recognized her skill in raising money, based on years of finding ways to fund her own school, sports and medical needs. Because Ayo has taken several community college courses, she will not only graduate with a high school diploma, but she will also have completed her Associates Degree. Ayo looks enthusiastically towards college where she plans to study medicine and business. Brave and wise beyond her years, Ayo pushes full steam ahead and says, “It’s been so hard making it through life, but I refuse to give up.” It is this perseverance that enables Ayo to beat the odds every day, and the Children’s Defense Fund proudly presents her as a 2008 Beat the Odds Award recipient.