Patience Odeh was awarded the 18 Under 18 Award by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) and won a $1,000 scholarship toward furthering her education at Towson University. (Courtesy Photo)

By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO

Young trailblazer and recent Baltimore Polytechnic Institute graduate, Patience Odeh, was just awarded the 18 Under 18 Award by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), an organization Odeh was already a member of when the opportunity to apply for the award came along. “It aligned with a lot of the things that I have been doing in my community,”she says of her reason for applying.

Co-founded by the great-nephew of Alfred Nobel, NSHSS is inspired by the mission of the Nobel Prize to support academic achievement and improve the world. NSHSS offers scholarships, college fairs, internships, career and leadership opportunities, partner discounts and more.

Odeh will be attending Towson University this fall where she will study biology and environmental science. Her career goal, she stated, is to “Get a PhD in environmental science and be a climate change researcher with respect to the effect it has on biodiversity.”

The 18 Under 18 Award was established to recognize students under 18 who are passionate about their contributions to society. As part of the application process, they submitted a video showcasing why their style of leadership resonates within their communities. They also explain how they plan to use this passion moving forward in life, to further effect change. Patience was one of 18 students selected, winning a $1,000 scholarship for her video submission.

Odeh explained to the AFRO she was comfortable creating video as part of the process. “I’ve shot and edited videos in the past so that wasn’t new, but it was surreal hearing all of the things I’ve done and knowing that during high school I was able to leave an impact.” When she found out she won she said she was, of course, “Super excited and grateful to have been chosen.”

Surprisingly, English was Odeh’s favorite subject throughout high school. “It was really cool being able to interpret texts to my liking, and doing argumentative essays really helped me find my voice.” She particularly enjoyed writing about Jesmyn Ward’s National Book Award winning novel, “Salvage The Bones.”

However, the experience that had the most emotional impact during her high school years was participating in an environmental science internship. Called BRANCHES, it’s run through Baltimore’s Parks and People Foundation. Odeh says by participating in the program, she was given the opportunity to go to the Urban Climate Action Network conference for one week. “We learned about how climate change affects different parts of the United States. We heard testimonies from students all across the US. It showed that although we may be miles away, we have similar experiences, and are interconnected. It changed me forever.”

In her free time Odeh writes poetry, sews, upcycles clothing and watches true crime documentaries. Of the latter, she states, “It’s breathtaking just knowing what humans are capable of.” 

She also makes time to volunteer through her church, St. Gregory The Great,  where she focuses on getting food to those in need. “What’s important to me is food insecurity, food deserts, and providing food to impoverished communities or whoever needs it because there is a lack of funding, especially for homeless populations within our city.”

Over the last few years, Odeh shares, she also went through what she calls her “journey of self acceptance”, which she wrote about for her college application. “Growing up, Eurocentric beauty standards are thrown at us and I don’t fit those standards in any way shape or form.” She recalls feeling less than others because of those standards, but felt compelled to change this. She says she began to increasingly surround herself, “with people who looked like me, and joining diverse and inclusive programs that constantly reminded me that regardless of my race, ethnicity, skin tone, gender I’m still a human being and my humanity is worthy.”

Odeh explains she increasingly surrounded herself, “with people who looked like me.” She also joined diverse and inclusive programs that reminded her that “regardless of my race, ethnicity, skin tone, gender I’m still a human being and my humanity is worthy.”

She also states that talking to friends with similar experiences and social media also helped. “Now we have more diverse people on our social media platforms. I follow a lot of Black activists and they really help with my self-confidence. I see people who look like me and I know if they can do it, I can do it as well. There’s only one me. If I can’t love myself I can’t expect anyone else to do it for me.”

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