The Washington Post

Esther Ogiata: First shame, then redemption

For Esther Ogiata, the promise of a college scholarship represented a tremendous opportunity. Esther’s family had come to the United States from Nigeria. She was in fourth grade when her father died in a fiery car crash on New Hampshire Avenue.

Esther, a conscientious student whose favorite subject was math, wanted to become a doctor — a career choice inspired by her father’s accident.

When Esther became pregnant in high school, she was afraid to tell Tracy Proctor, the mentor to the Seat Pleasant 59. He expressed understanding, but her shame kept her from speaking to him again for a while.

Esther had her baby and graduated from high school. She still had plans to attend college and medical school, plans that kept getting deferred as she had three more children.

She bumped into Proctor at a basketball tournament a couple of years ago. She was with her four kids.

“You’ve done a good job,” Proctor told her, words that meant more to her than Proctor could know.

For years, she had felt like a failure for not making it to medical school. Instead, she’d gotten a two-year degree from Montgomery Community College and had been working as a pharmaceutical technician.

Maybe, she told herself after her encounter with Proctor, she was being too hard on herself. Maybe things had turned out okay.

Paul Schwartzman specializes in political profiles and narratives about life, death and everything in between.


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