Nuggets of Excellence for Teenagers


Maryam Popoola, a 15-year-old who emerged as the 2016 Valedictorian of Dowen College in Lekki, Lagos, recently launched her book ‘Insight: Nuggets of Excellence for Teenagers’, an attestation to her outstanding academic prowess. Funke Olaode who covered the event, reports

Her appearance contradicts her intellectual prowess. Petite, smallish and soft spoken. And it may not be wrong if she is simply addressed as a smallish one with a giant intellectual acumen. These are a few attributes that best describe Maryam Popoola, a final year student and a 2016 Valedictorian of Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos, who is gradually carving a niche for herself at a time when some of her contemporaries are still tied to their mothers’ apron. She is brilliant no doubt, but her consistency and unrelenting zeal to excel and conquer new heights is a proof that the new kid on the block is one of Nigeria’s shining lights to watch.

Those who have been following this amiable teenager’s academic trajectory were not really surprised at this rare feat as Maryam has distinguished herself right from childhood. She attended Crescent Nursery and Primary Schools in Lagos and completed as overall best student. At Dowen College where she has the privilege of being appointed as deputy head girl of the school, she has been a consistent scholar in the past five years and capped it as 2016 Valedictorian. She has also secured admission to one of the top colleges in the United Kingdom for her ‘A’ levels.

On Thursday June 2, 2016, TOMEB Foundation, a non-governmental organisation established by Maryam’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tunde Ahmed Popoola in collaboration with Dowen College rolled out the drum to celebrate this teenage author. Held at the school auditorium, the array of personality that converged on the school hall was an attestation that Maryam is indeed their beloved daughter in whom they are well pleased.

Among the dignitaries were Alhaji Rafiu Ebiti, chairman of the occasion and Director-General, Education Quality Assurance, Lagos State, Mrs. Ronke Soyombo, guest speaker and chairman Access Bank, Plc, Mrs. Mosun Olusoga, book presenter and executive director Eco Bank Plc, Mr. Oladele Alabi, chief host and Principal of Dowen College, Mrs. Olawunmi Togonu Bickersteth, book reviewer and director, sales and marketing, Megalectric Ltd, Mrs. Amirah Obi-Okoye, CEO of Arabel, Mrs. Shareefah Abiola Andu just to mention a few.

Insight: Nuggets of Excellence for Teenagers, is a motivational book that discerns some aspects of human endeavours with the intent of opening our eyes to some things which are not easily known to many people. In this 98 pages book of 12 chapters, the author carefully used analogues and personal experiences to drive home her points.
Speaking about the influence to writing the book, the golden girl of the moment Maryam said it was something that started as little write-ups.

“It started in summer of last year. It actually revolves around what teenagers go through in their day-to-day lives and sometimes what life throws at you. It wouldn’t have been possible without my parents’ support in both finance and encouragement.” Nigeria should be on the lookout for another internationally acclaimed author like Chiamamanda Adichie. Well, while she will keep writing, she would still go ahead to pursue her ambition as an architect.

In her welcome address Principal of Dowen College, Mrs. Bickersteth thanked the author’s parents for what they have done to the amiable teenager. “What else can we say? The scripture says train up a child the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it. Yes, the evidence is there, parents will try their best but the grace is the determining factor.

Also, the scripture says except the Lord build the house the labourer laboureth in vain. To Maryam, ever since I met her in JSS 1, she has distinguished herself as a respectful, adorable, disciplined, respectable, unassuming, a role model, excellent in character and academics. You can give her any assignment and go to sleep with hope of getting an excellent result. The book launch is expected of her because of the caliber of person she is. Thank you for being a perfect child by setting a goal for yourself, and thrive to achieve the set goals.

“Maryam has proven to us today that she is an accomplished student. That is why I believe if you put your mind to something you can achieve it. You have to be disciplined by being consistent, by denying yourself of pleasure to achieve your target. There is nothing wrong in dreaming because it propels you to a greater height. Maryam is being celebrated today because she has been a teachers’ delight. Diligent, disciplined, consistent. Right now, she has gotten admission to one of the top colleges in United Kingdom for an ‘A’ levels. To you students, what Maryam can do also you too can do because if you aim high sky is just the beginning,” she said

Reviewing the 12 chapters, Obi-Okoye enumerated some of the important points the author identified in her book. According to her, one needs a power of positive attitude, what it takes to succeed as teenagers, ingredients to succeed, goal and goal setting, cultivating important habits, life lessons from school, managing the bad side of social media, managing the good side of social media, towards academic excellence, importance of teachers and sources of inspiration.

Praising the author, Obi-Okoye said Maryam has been an embodiment of “who a good student should be. However, by this book which she has authored, I will describe her as an embodiment of excellence. She is indeed a role model to her peers, her juniors and her seniors, myself inclusive.”

Speaking further, “in a society like ours where the practice of excellence is uncommon, it is a rarity to find a teenager who not only has identified this void but goes a step further to take the bull by the horns. She has embraced the challenge of sharing her personal experiences to horn in on the importance for all, both young and old, to strive for excellence at all times. Maryam’s book dares it all. She looks at excellence through a kaleidoscope of personal experiences as well as analogies to drive home her point.”

The first five chapters of Maryam’s book, Insight: Nuggets of Excellence delve into the powers of Positive Attitude, Positive thinking, Goal Setting, important habits and how all of these lead to Success. One of the ways to achieve success, according to Maryam, is through excellence; a pot pourri of positive human behaviors polished with hard work, consistence, persistence, diligence, confidence and inspiration. All these are traits that Maryam is well known for.
Mrs. Obi-Okoye challenged students to embrace Maryam’s attitude because secret to success is “reading” while cheating can only take them half far but not to the point of achieving their set goals.

In his opening remarks, Alhaji Ebiti whose son passed through the school congratulated the Popoola’s for raising such an amiable daughter who is a reflection of the school’s motto “Be the best”. He also praised the school management for inculcating in their students to be self-reliance. “Dowen is an educational institution that teaches self-reliance, telling students that sky is not the limit but the starting point. And that is why students have to be the best in everything because there is no limit to perfection.” Ebiti enjoined the parents to continue to encourage their children in educational excellence as money spent on children is not a waste.

Mrs. Soyombo extolled the virtues of Maryam who she described as one of the shinning lights of Lagos State. While the importance of education cannot be overemphasized, she enjoined students to stay focused on the task ahead as if they have to study one chapter of a book for an hour, they need to do so instead of letting their mind wander.

For Olusoga, she didn’t only commend the author of the book for her achievements, she also recommended the book for everyone as is meant for someone with higher level of maturity as they tend to gain one or two things from it. While the advent of social media has eroded educational structure as some can’t even speak or write good English, Olusoga, however, suggested human interaction from time to time while she advised the students that for them to excel, they need to be committed to writing and speaking good English. “I want to implore you to avoid slangs and spend less time on social media. Maryam has made her parents proud and you need to emulate her. “

Corroborating Olusoga’s point, the chief presenter, Alabi identified three value propositions that set the book apart. According to him, the book has first class quality with international standards, which quality reflects from page one to the end. “This also reflects Maryam Popoola’s (MP) branding. And most importantly, the book, in terms of tremendous value that can be derived, is not limited to teenagers alone as it is useful for many circles of life with words of wisdom.”
The take away from the book launch according to the CEO of Arabel, Mrs. Abiola Andu, is the power of prayer as she wouldn’t have achieved this without God Almighty. At the end of three hours, invited guests donated generously. There is no doubt, no one will go through this unique work without being fed with morsels of knowledge.