The life of a medical student is legendarily hectic. Studying, lab work, networking, the first steps towards internship—there’s little time for a life outside one’s books. It’s hard to imagine even adding a part-time job to that whirlwind of chaos.

Now try to imagine running a school.

Emmanuel Okenye opened Veritas Academy in Nigeria quietly three years ago, the year he began as a medical student at Lincoln Memorial University’s DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine. He balances studying with 4am calls to Nigeria (thanks to the time difference) and constant fundraising efforts to keep his school open.

Veritas opened for 40 students in 2013, in Ikorodu, Nigeria, the town where Okenye grew up. Now it teaches 200, most of them supported by Child Scholars, a corresponding nonprofit that he started this April to give students a chance to attend who otherwise couldn’t afford to.

Okenye always wanted to become a doctor. As a child, his family often went hungry to save enough money that he and his sisters could go to school. His mother was the driving force behind that love of school, and now she leads the team of teachers at Veritas.

Sponsors and hard work brought Okenye to the US to go to college. He earned a degree from Lee University in Tennessee, and then worked for almost two years as a chemist, saving his money to open his school. He saw it as a way of giving back, repaying the opportunities he’d been given.

Despite the school’s constant need for fundraising, Okenye has been close-mouthed about his school among his teachers and classmates, until very recently. Now that he’s opened up about it, his support has expanded hugely, and he hopes soon to add a new building to the school that will open enrollment to an additional 300.

Okenye is planning a trip home soon, taking a team to Veritas Academy to teach the students about CPR and basic wellness. He believes wholeheartedly that health and education work together.

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