Before now Oluwatamilore Kabiawu, popularly known as ‘Tami’ was only known as a 4.6 GPA student. But a few weeks back, news about him hit the web when he got admission offers from 14 colleges, including 5 Ivy Colleges.
While his colleagues are worried about getting accepted into their choice Colleges, Kabiawu’s greatest challenge now is which to choose among a myriad of colleges. Some of the colleges are Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Columbia and MIT.
The secret of the Fair Lawn High School senior has been described in several ways by different people. To Joseph Lake, his guidance counsellor, Tami’s unrelenting spirit has taken him this far.
He said, “Tami is truly a gifted young man. What Tami is experiencing is the result of his self-esteem and feelings of love and belongingness being nurtured to its full potential.”
His mum, Dami, commented, “I’ve always taught them [Tami and twin brother Tommy] to believe in themselves and be very polite, to always stand their ground.”
A close relative hinted that Tami (Class Of 2021), is leaning heavily toward Harvard University, “the best of both worlds — technology and liberal arts,” where he aims to major in computer science and do research into artificial intelligence and augmented reality.
To Kabiawu, his success stems from hard work and persistence.
“What makes me most happy is making these little goals and sticking with them, and gradually over time achieving the big goal,” he said.
The Cow head story
The accomplished track and field athlete, who is also the President of the Future Business Leaders of America and National Honor Society, is not limited to academics. His ability to think out of the box, and break norms is also his strength.
He said, “I wrote my college essay on decapitated cow heads, which I know sounds a little crazy. I was 9 when I visited my family in Nigeria for a wedding.
The cows were slaughtered near the reception so that the meat would not need to be refrigerated. As I walked by I just saw these decapitated cow heads and was really, like, shocked by it and really appalled.
Rather than dismissing the unfamiliar, I recognized the importance of embracing differences. I likened the experience to growing up in Fair Lawn.
I didn’t necessarily fit a particular stereotype of how people thought Black students should act. “Over time, I’ve gained confidence in myself, and people are drawn to that, and I was allowed to be more authentic.”
This experience means a lot to the athlete, as the Cow heads changed his perception about fighters like him.
“Now, I see “cow heads” as a metaphor for people who are unabashedly themselves and unafraid to show who they are,” he said.
What you should know
Tami’s goal is to work on innovations in AI and augmented reality and he hopes to work on research and projects in these fields in college.
Tami was born in London, moved to Atlanta for a short while, then moved to Troy, New York where he attended elementary school while his mother pursued a PhD at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).
The family relocated to Fair Lawn when Tami started sixth grade at Memorial Middle School. His twin brother, Tommy, will be playing football at RPI next year.
Kabiawu is set to graduate on June 22 at Fair Lawn High School’s Sasso Field.
Tami Kabiawu’s dad lives and works in Nigeria, and the son said his interest in technology stems from being able to connect with him via FaceTime and WhatsApp.