May 16, 2012
2012 Graduate: Bolanle Olayinka Babajide-Gbenga
As a child growing up in Nigeria, Bolanle Olayinka
Babajide-Gbenga dreamed of someday becoming a nurse. She wanted to
care for others, especially the less fortunate in her
“I gave my parents so much trouble because I was sick a lot,” she said. “My mother told me the story of her younger sister who died of malaria. They did not have the money to take care of her, and she died. I started to think, I want to become a nurse. I want to help people.”
In 2006, Babajide-Gbenga left her family and her home in Nigeria behind to move to Atlanta. Two years later, she returned to school, refusing to give up on her dream of becoming a nurse. She entered Georgia Perimeter College in Clarkston.
“The teachers there changed everything for me,” said the 35-year-old with a smile. “They made the math possible. Suddenly, I could do it. It opened the door for me to come to Valdosta State University.”
With her core classes mastered, Babajide-Gbenga applied to six different Georgia-based nursing programs and gained admission into each one. She did not know how she was going to choose between them until she began conducting a bit of research.
Babajide-Gbenga chose VSU because of its commitment to multiculturalism and its Center for International Programs. She left her two children, Precious, 5, and Victor, 3, and her husband of nine years, Gbenga Babajide, behind in Atlanta and moved to Valdosta in the fall of 2010. The family reunited on the weekends and during breaks.
“They were very supportive of my dreams,” said the recipient of the 2010 Math Modeling Student of the Semester Award. “My family back in Nigeria … everyone supported me. The nursing program was difficult, and I cried often, but in the end, it was a good experience.”
Thinking back over the two years she spent in VSU’s College of Nursing, Babajide-Gbenga noted that she will never forget Sandra Delk, an assistant professor who, she explained, had a unique ability to make even the most difficult classes easy to learn and understand. She will also never forget Stephen Shirlock, a nursing instructor who helped her discover her passion for the geriatric field of nursing.
“He really loved breaking things down so all of us could understand,” she said. “When I had a question, even if he had lots of students with the same question, he always took the time to explain. He was never in a hurry; he always had time.”
Babajide-Gbenga graduated from VSU on Saturday, May 5, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, and was the recipient of the College of Nursing’s Dr. Virginia Harmeyer Heart of Nursing Award and John D. Archbold Memorial Hospital Award for outstanding leadership and achievement. A brother and an uncle came to Valdosta from Africa to celebrate her accomplishments.
“VSU gave me the knowledge, and I am ready to enter the field of nursing,” she said.
In a couple of weeks, Babajide-Gbenga plans to return to Nigeria for a few months to visit with family and check the progress of some boys and girls she rescued from the streets. She feeds them, provides shelter for them, and pays their tuition to attend school.
“I hope to be able to help more when I start working as a nurse and making a little more money,” she said.
When she returns to the United States, Babajide-Gbenga plans to begin working full-time as a nurse. She also plans to continue her nursing studies, pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing degree at VSU.
“I love VSU,” she said. “I would not go anywhere else.”