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Dami Olatosi: Using Her Voice to Champion Causes

Carolyn Stoddard
The more I learn about Dami, the more impressed I am by her depth of involvement in research and policy, her academic initiative, and her tremendous intellect. The older of two children born to Nigerian immigrants, Dami has been raised in a family that values education, service, independence, diligence, and integrity. She has been challenged by her parents to live every day with character and purpose, and as a result has not taken lightly the opportunity to pursue her academic and extracurricular goals. Goal-oriented and one who not only meets expectations but exceeds them, Dami has a forceful drive to learn, discover, and advance the world around her. She is full of aspiration and the skills and potential needed to reach them.
 
Dami is wholeheartedly interested in computer science, engineering, design, biology, and other STEM areas, and she has been intentional to seek summer enrichment opportunities to expose her to these areas on an advanced level. Dami’s first taste of summer STEM work was when she interned with a primary care physician several summers ago. That experience, learning about medicine through her parents’ work, and watching both of her grandparents’ cancer treatments firsthand when they came to the United States after not receiving proper medical care in Nigeria, all contributed to Dami’s interest in science and healthcare. She learned more about this field through three different summer experiences in 2020. One was a Harvard University Pre-college Summer Program where she took a neuroanatomy and mind and behavior course. Another was Duke SWIM, a math summer program through which she created an SIR model for COVID-19, and lastly and most significantly, Dami was chosen through a selective application process for MIT’s MOSTEC, a science and engineering program for students across the country that runs from June – December. Last summer, Dami completed two online courses, one on computational biology and genomics, and another science writing course. Hammond’s community benefitted greatly from her participation in the latter, as the literature review and article she wrote for the course on the importance of American youth wearing masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19 was distributed across campus. It was so impactful that we asked Dami to speak in front of the entire Upper School so that our students could better understand our own mask mandate. In addition to these courses, she attended a week-long virtual conference in August and spent the fall semester interacting with faculty through guest lectures and seminars during the evenings and on weekends.
 
This was not Dami’s first rodeo in healthcare advocacy, or advocacy in general. Dami uses her voice to champion causes about which she’s passionate, specifically through the Youth in Government (YiG) and Public Policy and Social Change (PPSC) programs. YiG is a YMCA- affiliated youth program that centers on researching, writing, and proposing mock legislation at an annual conference at the SC Statehouse. Through this program, she has passed bills to end employment at will, requiring that employers submit termination explanations to the Department of Labor, as well as a bill for the government to help cover costs of rehabilitation programs for drug and alcohol abusers. As a junior, Dami applied for and was elected to serve as a YiG Floor Leader, which challenged her to speak out for or against bills during the annual conference. Dami especially loved this role, as it allowed her agency to choose which bills she felt most strongly about and advocate for them. PPSC is a Hammond-specific program, one that serves as a lens through which students can focus their involvements and interests throughout high school in making a difference in the world. When students apply to be part of the program, they propose a platform, a topic that they find relevant and want to research and explore. If their application and platform are approved by a faculty board, then they spend their upperclassmen years taking classes, participating in volunteer work, and doing an internship that all focus on their selected issue. This experience culminates in a capstone project designed to make a sustainable difference in the community or the world. Dami’s project centers on her research of nationwide HIV growth within the high school population. Although overall HIV diagnoses are down, the diagnoses of 20-24-year-olds is growing. Dami has been creating a communications strategy for HIV awareness amongst youth and plans to continue this work in college.
 
Although the world is Dami’s oyster and she can achieve anything she sets her sights on, I envision her earning high honors as a biomedical engineering major, completing research while earning her master’s in public health, and later going on to medical school supported by the NIH. There is incredible power in Dami; she is focused and driven, eager to learn and experience all that life has to offer, all within the context of making a difference in the world. She has been a source of immense pride for Hammond, and we wish her well as she takes her talents to Duke University as a Benjamin N. Duke Scholar. 
 
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