A group of 17 students from the West Broadway Youth Outreach went to see a doctor Thursday morning and brought roses and signs.
That doctor was Tito Daodu, 26, one of WBYO's own, who was among the University of Manitoba's 105 faculty of medicine graduates at the convocation ceremony at the Brodie Centre Atrium on McDermot Avenue.
'For me, this is a big deal that so many of these kids came here today. The neighbourhood that I grew up in, there's not really a lot of high expectations for kids there' -- Tito Daodu, 26
"Incredibly proud of Tito is an understatement," said Ken Opaleke, in his 22nd year as the WBYO director. He and many of the youngsters had "Tito" written on their cheeks.
"I remember writing a reference letter for her, and it still rings true what I said, which is that she is the beacon for our community at large. She shines for all our children," Opaleke said. "Her accomplishments represent a message to our children of 'that's going to be us.' This is a person who comes and tutors in our Homework Club, just like she used to go to Homework Club. We tell them every day they are unstoppable, and she is showing them."
Daodu, whose given name is Oluwatomilayo Oladayo Daodu, was born in Nigeria and moved to Winnipeg when she was eight with her mom, Kenny, and sister, Dupe. Their father, Jacob, was able to join them four years later when he got his visa. Daodu attended Mulvey School on Wolseley Avenue and then St. Mary's Academy on scholarships and earned a degree in biology during her eight-year pursuit of her medical degree.
"It's been an incredible journey. For me, this is a big deal that so many of these kids came here today. The neighbourhood that I grew up in, there's not really a lot of high expectations for kids there," Daodu said, her eyes filling with tears.
"When I go back to help at Homework Club, it's so encouraging. When they hear I'm going to be a doctor, they feel like they could do the same thing or they talk about what they want to accomplish. It's super-exciting."
Daodu credits the WBYO for helping her find the right path. She said her family had been living in an apartment across from Mulvey School for only a short time when one day Opaleke was leading a soccer program in the schoolyard. "Ken spotted my younger sister and I and he yelled across the street, 'Hey, it's a lot more fun on this side of the fence' and told us the program was open to anyone in the neighbourhood," Daodu said.
WBYO member El-Shaddai, 12, said she came to support Daodu, who has been her friend for five years.
"She's helped me with my homework and we always talk. If I needed any help with anything, she's always there for me," El-Shaddai said. "What she's done shows all of us that you are in charge of your life and you can do whatever you put your mind to as long as you just try your best."
Daodu is the second doctor from the WBYO program in two years. The other, Norman McLean, is now a pediatrician. Daodu will do her residency in Calgary but she hopes to return to Manitoba to work as a surgeon. "The WHO (World Health Organization) has identified surgical care as one of the top-five health-care needs in the world right now. That has really made it the right pick for me," she said.
Brian Postl, dean of the U of M's faculty of medicine, noted the 2013 class has a diverse group of individuals.
"It's really what we strive for. It's available to people from all backgrounds and walks of life, because that's how you serve the public," Postl said.