|19 Jul 2023|
|United States of America|
|2023 Finalists Global Student Prize|
Noel had as difficult and traumatic a start in life as it is possible to envisage. When he was nine years old, his pregnant mother was raped and died from the resultant complications. This terrible event changed his life forever, but his losses did not end there. Boko Haram insurgencies began to increase where Noel lived in northern Nigeria, which brought riots, displacement, and the destruction of many schools: Noel himself was out of school for two years. Later, as he was finishing high school, his father lost his life in one of the attacks – leaving Noel and his siblings to fend for themselves.
However, Noel has not let these terrible tragedies overshadow him, and he has consistently made incredible efforts to help others. In 2018, he founded Boys Champions – a youth-led nonprofit organization supporting boys and men on their journey to manhood by teaching them positive masculinity and showing them how to relate to women respectfully. Boys Champions also brings books and educational resources to rural communities via a mobile library, with the aim of raising the next generation of future leaders. With the same goal in view, Noel has also developed an app called endV to combat gender-based violence in Nigeria by creating a sustainable virtual safe space for women to seek help and support in a secure environment.
These efforts are all extra to Noel’s university education, which he is using to become a special education professional. Seeing that Nigeria's education system had a gap in regard to students with disabilities, he decided that he wanted to study special education at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College, ranked first in the world for this field. He is a first-generation student as well as the first African in nine years (and the first ever Nigerian) to be admitted to the master’s degree with an annual scholarship of $88,000. Noel wants to become the most impactful special education teacher Nigeria has ever seen.
In 2022, Noel became the first African to win the AFS Award for Young Global Citizens (for Boys Champions), selected from over 700 young global leaders from more than 100 countries. He is also a Generation Change Fellow of the United States Institute of Peace, and the founder and Executive Director of Hope for African Children, a nonprofit organization committed to increasing access to education and healthcare for children with learning and physical disabilities.
Winning the Global Student Prize would allow Noel to open a centre for children with special needs, launch his endV app, encourage more young leaders and entrepreneurs, and expand Boys Champions to work with the United Nations, AFS Intercultural Programs, Enugu State Government, and Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Women Affairs. With the prize money, Boys Champions would be able to expand its reach, hire additional staff, and provide more resources to the communities it serves.