When Ifechi Akaniru’s father immigrated from Nigeria to America, he worked blue-collar jobs to sustain himself and pay for school. While others were preparing for graduation, he was in a taxicab driving his classmates to ceremonies to pay his tuition. Stories of his cabbie service taught Akaniru the importance of perseverance, hard work, and steadfast resolve. They also fueled her drive to win scholarships so that she would not add to his burden.
She has been successful in that endeavor, earning seven prestigious scholarships. One of them, from USF benefactor Lynn Pippenger, helped her build a personal relationship with the woman who helped build Raymond James. As a result, Akaniru has interned at Raymond James twice, gaining analytical, organizational, and networking skills.
The young scholar is a service leader. She has been involved in short-term service projects through the Bulls Business Community and the Business Honors Program. She has been a long-term volunteer with the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, interacting with clients and taking on leadership roles for the CARD Autism Champions Student Organization. In 2015, she was asked to serve as president of the group.
Because of her sister, who has autism, Akaniru finds this program particularly gratifying. So much so, in fact, that her honors thesis is dedicated to CARD. Akaniru has spent the last year researching trends in autism services and analyzing the organization’s goals in order to create a marketing plan to help increase awareness of its services.