As a first-generation American, Daniel Ojo noted the racial injustices -- some veiled, others overt -- he and his Nigerian-born parents frequently encountered. He also noted it did little good to protest. The first time he recalls feeling that way was in preschool when his classmates told him he couldn't join them in the toy kitchen because "blacks aren't allowed." He told his teacher. "Stop tattling," she chastised.
"Often, my experiences would be invalidated -- any time someone said something offensive, the response was always, 'Oh, I'm sure they didn't mean it that way,'" says Ojo, a junior political science major who was named this year's Outstanding Diversity Advocate by UNT's Student Government Association. "But there's a long history of people who have had experiences similar to mine. And I thought, 'I guess I'll do something about it.'"
As a sophomore, Ojo -- also a member of NT40, a resident advisor at Maple Hall, and an organizer with the "Your Workers My Family" campaign that advocates for equal pay and protection for essential workers during the pandemic -- says he "dipped his toe" into student leadership by joining the University Program Council.
Shortly after, he was appointed by SGA as a senator, representing the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Ojo also accepted a role as director of internal affairs for the Black Student Union, where he worked to develop and implement programs and community outreach initiatives, as well as create and disseminate resources to boost academic retention among historically marginalized populations.
As an SGA senator, his first action was proposing and passing legislation to ensure discounted gynecological services at the Student Health and Wellness Center.
"I wanted to be the kind of substantive representation that students needed," says Ojo, who also spearheaded an inclusive dining campaign to introduce halal and kosher meal options in the dining halls. "My goal is to make sure the opinions and needs of the people in my campus community are heard."
In early June, Ojo -- who ultimately hopes to earn a master's in public administration -- began the Junior Summer Institute's Public Policy and International Affairs program, a rigorous academic graduate-level preparation program for juniors committed to public service careers.
"My focus is to effect change around the things I'm passionate about," says Ojo, who plans to spend senior year helping to encourage young campus leaders. "If you find the confidence within yourself, and then find a community that supports you, you'll find that what you say matters."