Abiodun Durojaye had a lot on her plate growing up. Born in Nigeria, she and her family immigrated to south suburban Chicago when she was 9 years old.
“When we moved here I went straight into the public school system and struggled to find my path,” she said. “I was a new immigrant with a very deep accent and looked different, and kids [noticed], so they bullied. I didn’t really have anyone to turn to because while I was dealing with my situation, my mom was facing her own issues at work.”
Facing those challenges led her to think critically about what she wanted to do in life, and she set her mind to finding ways to help girls like her or any student discover their paths. One way she does that is through the nonprofit she founded in Chicago called AsidaLove.
“We work with immigrant girls from the age 10 to 15 and cultivate a habit in them of being bosses,” Durojaye said. “It’s all about figuring out a way to advocate for themselves, how to navigate the elementary, high school, and even college sectors of their lives. It’s showing them how to find their voice.”
AsidaLove started years ago with Durojaye helping just one 15-year-old girl, who is now in college.
“It was just amazing, her transition from that sophomore girl in high school, struggling to find her way, into a college student and the lady she was destined to be,” she said. “We started with just three girls under my wing, and we’ve grown to where we had 14 girls in the system just last year.”
Durojaye is working on earning a doctorate degree in Interdisciplinary Leadership and Higher Education at Governors State University.
“Ultimately I want to pave a way for immigrants who come to this country to navigate the system,” she said. “I want to help immigrants navigate the higher education system without losing any sense of their identity.”
Durojaye serves as the Director of Career Development & Employer Engagement for Ivy Tech Community College of Valparaiso. Her work is centered on working with employers to create career opportunities and helping students learn the skills they need to find a career path and navigate job hunting.
“Career development centers should be at every community college and 4-year institution across the U.S.,” Durojaye said. “We provide students with the skills that they don’t get inside of the classroom. Essential skills like basic teamwork, handshakes, how to work with people who don’t look or talk like you, or how to dress for an interview. We give those first-generation, low-income, minority students who have no one else to look up to a place to turn.”
Like her work at AsidaLove, her passion for career development was lit by her experiences growing up.
“I know when I was that student, I’d talk to my academic advisors, but they just helped with classes,” she said. “I didn’t have anyone to really help me navigate this whole idea of finding who I wanted to be. So this and AsidaLove are all aligned, and my ultimate goal is be a vice chancellor of student success. I want to be the catalyst for the change I know is so desperately needed.”
Durojaye lives in Northwest Indiana with her husband, Tayo Durojaye, and their daughers Dede, Fefe, and Ileri.