An African-American Female Leader Helps Immigrant Families in the Most Powerful Way

Posted by femigrants17 | August 6, 2017 | story

“A lot of immigrants come to the United States and there is nobody to guide and direct them. We should give back by helping them and I am grateful for each day we get a chance to do just that. This is what being blessed is all about!”

Managing Director of Ravir LLC and a recognized leader in the small-business community. A dynamic international trainer and a speaker. A teacher of the Year Award in Irving and DFW Teacher of the Year at Texas Virtual Academy

 

A story of American born but rather than a 'naturalized citizen who was raised in Nigeria by her paternal grandparents. Feyi’s cultural characteristics became more Nigerian and there she learned about work ethics like commitment, perseverance and other characteristics that built her character down the road. How she could adapt to the US culture and build her life after 20s here?

Feyi Obamehinti‘s story is different from the majority of Femigrants. What makes Feyi’s case unique is that she was born in Phoenix, Arizona to Nigerian parents who were in the U.S. in the 60s, making her an American born citizen and not naturalized. Why is she on Femigrants then? Well, although she was born in the U.S., Feyi travelled to Nigeria at a young age and was raised there. Her parents were divorced and had each remarried. She was raised by her paternal grandparents in Nigeria. “I basically learnt everything about life from my grandparents. My grandfather was a homeopathic doctor and Minister in the African Methodist church. My grandmother was a retired school principal in the town of Edem Iyere in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. I learnt a lot about marriage from them since they were married for over sixty years. I learnt what perseverance was by watching my grandmother take care of my grandfather who had Alzheimer’s in his later years. He passed away in his late nineties. I watched my grandmother reach out to people with kindness and compassion. Both were well known in our community. My grandparents had six children and I was like their seventh child. People actually thought they were my parents instead of grandparents.”

Being raised in Nigeria, Feyi’s cultural characteristics were becoming more and more Nigerian. She went to an all-girls boarding school, which is typical in Nigerian culture. There she learned about work ethics like commitment, perseverance, determination and other characteristics that would eventually build her character down the road. She learned what it means to be part of a community and how to work as a group to achieve a common goal. She thrived there and was one of the leaders in the student council. “I was a very intelligent student. It was obvious to school staff that I was gifted. Typically, I only needed to look at things once and not have to study them again. Because of that, my family thought I was going to go to medical school and should go to medical school”.

After high school, Feyi Obamehinti went on to earn her “A-levels”, a British scholastic system designed to prepare students for college. She then went on to pursue a pre-med track in Biochemistry at the university. To her surprise, she struggled in university. “I wished I had some sort of guidance counsellor back in high school who could have helped me realize my passion and strengths sooner. I could have aligned it accordingly with my career goals at an earlier age than later in life. I came to learn that I did not like physical science but liked life sciences instead”.

Then, the time came when she had to decide whether she wanted to stay in Nigeria or return to the United States. “I thought that was a good time to make a change so I decided on the latter”. She came to the U.S. and stayed with her maternal uncle who lived in Texas.

“I finally came to the US in my twenties. It was a huge transition for me and I discovered a lot of things about myself. One was that I did not like the sight of blood!” That discovery certainly put medical school out of the question. Instead Feyi Obamehinti earned her bachelors degree in microbiology transferring most of her undergraduate courses from Nigeria to the University of Texas in Arlington.  It was in Texas that Feyi met her husband who was also transitioning from graduate school and just starting his profession as a veterinary nutritionist at the Dallas Zoo. After traveling to Nigeria to have their traditional wedding, they had a small sized wedding here in U.S. and decided to settle in Texas since that is where her husband established his professional work. They began their family with the arrival of their oldest daughter (Lola) who is now 26.  Two daughters would follow, Layo who is now 24 and Lade who is 22.

Having our own business enhances our quality of life and the essence of it is that we can spend time with the most important people in our life.

“We did not have anyone to help us with our children but we still wanted something different for them”. By the time Feyi’s eldest daughter was 3 years old she was already reading. They decided to homeschool their daughters instead and they did so for 11 years. That was rare then especially for an immigrant family. However, this time of homeschooling strengthened their family and confirmed her passion for teaching. She later took an opportunity to job share, which is to teach science and math part time with another teacher. She left her job as a microbiologist at Oak Farm Dairy to pursue teaching.

“I was partially employed as an eighth-grade science teacher which was such a great experience. Not only was it my first time (teaching) in public school but it was also in a poor neighborhood in Dallas. Some of the kids were categorized as at-risk kids who just needed someone to listen and care about them. Most of them were minority and/or immigrants. I had to make a connection with them first and science came after that. Thankfully many of them became successful. This was how I began working with disadvantaged children”.

With the classroom, administrative and agency experience, Feyi decided to start her own business. Since she had been working in a lot of school districts she was quite well known in Texas and even across the country.  Her business capitalized on the idea of providing training not just for teachers but also for companies to help their employees get better at what they do. She knew the workload would be heavy, so she used her connections and got all the paperwork done to start-up her company – Ravir LLC. “God honored my desire to basically cherish and enjoy moments with my family. I now have the flexibility and I can enjoy the life that God has blessed me with. I didn’t want it to just pass me by”.

Currently she spends her time doing what is dear to her heart. Something she learned from her grandparents in Nigeria long ago. Faith and community. She teaches women weekly from her community the Word of God and how to live a victorious life. Something she would not have been able to do if she was still working regular hours. “I believe having my own business enhanced my quality of life and the essence of it is that I can spend time with the most important people in my life. I was fortunate to have been able to raise my kids and spend all that time with them while they were being home schooled. I was able to hone my passion and even went back to school to get my Masters and Doctorate”.

In the community, Feyi and her husband work a lot with immigrant families, teaching them about transitioning into the American culture. “I have seen a lot working in schools. Many people come to America from a different culture, with little or no help on how to transition and integrate well in the American culture. The aftermath is that they end up losing their families instead of the desire they had to build them up”. Feyi and her husband established a non-profit Take Back Ministries so they can give back to the community. The non-profit helps disadvantaged children in public schools, works with families and newcomers settle in the country. They help their families succeed as she has being able to do for her family.

Each of Feyi’s daughters graduated from high school at the age of 16! “You don’t normally send teenagers at the age of 16 to college but my husband and I did. We had enough confidence in them and we trusted them enough to know that they would be fine”. They finished college by the age of 20 and went on to do their Masters. Her oldest is now 26, works as an IT consultant in the New York area, has two Master’s degrees and is also pursuing her doctorate. Her second daughter got the opportunity to study in Paris while in college. While there she realized she wanted to go to medical school abroad. She is now 24 years old in medical school in Europe and plans to work as a global medical doctor with Doctors without Borders. Her youngest graduated as a mechanical engineer two years ago. She currently lives in Silicon Valley where she works at Facebook as a technical program manager for Facebook’s Building 8 initiative.

“It can be done! A lot of immigrants come to the United States and there is nobody to guide and direct them.  No one to befriend them and educate them on life in America, about neighborhoods, schools and much more. No one to encourage them that they CAN have a balanced life. We should give back by helping them and I am grateful for each day we get a chance to do just that. This is what being blessed is all about!”

Editors: Aygun Amirali, Veronika Takayawa, Dana Haj

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