Little Flower senior Claude-Ericka Ekobeni decided she wanted to do something about the cost of life-saving medications after reading about a young diabetic man who died after rationing his insulin.
This fall, Claude-Ericka, 17, of Summerdale, will begin studying at the University of Pennsylvania for a degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering. Her goal is to someday help fix the economics of healthcare, a topic she speaks passionately about.
“Integral medications are so expensive, and a lot of these low- and middle-income families aren’t able to afford these medications,” said Claude-Ericka, who immigrated to the United States from Cameroon when she was 3 years old.
“So I figured the best way to use my love for science and incorporate that with my love for community service was creating medications that could then be sold at low prices that people could actually afford,” she added.
It’s an ambitious goal, but so is getting into Penn, which accepted only about 8 percent of its applicants last year.
Claude-Ericka’s father, Eric Ekobeni, remembers the moment he learned his daughter was accepted into the prestigious university.
He was driving home on I-95 from his job in Wilmington, Delaware, when she called. Ekobeni said he tried to avoid speeding up when he heard the news.
“I’m just amazed and proud of her — just looking at her, listening to her and what she has become and the way she sees the world and how she wants to be more involved and have a positive impact on this world,” he said.
Claude-Ericka is the second St. Martin of Tours School graduate who will be heading to an Ivy League school after summer break. As reported by the Times in January, Archbishop Ryan senior David Eniola is going to Princeton University on a full academic scholarship.
The two are good friends, Claude-Ericka said, and David was even her prom date.
“We’re very proud of our graduates and all of our students,” SMT assistant principal Jennifer Nobles said. “It’s really a testament to the work our network, the Independence Mission School, is doing for these communities in Philadelphia and also the care and the support that our teachers give our students.”
SMT became an Independence Mission School in 2013.
At Little Flower, Claude-Ericka participates in a litany of after-school activities. She is secretary of the Community Service Corps and vice president of National Honor Society, and she is involved in mathletes, yearbook, an underwater robotics club, a creative writing book the school puts together and the Hispanic club La Flores, and serves as an ambassador for the high school.
Claude-Ericka said she likes giving back and wants community service to be part of her future career.
“I like getting to know people while I’m helping them,” she said. “I find that, when you’re helping people, they tend to be more open to you, and I get to learn a lot of backstories and different lifestyles.”
“My perspective on the world changes,” she added. “I’m helping someone who I might have never crossed before if I wasn’t helping them.” ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org