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The beginning of a new calendar year is an exciting time at DeMatha as seniors start getting a glimpse of what college they may attend in the fall. On Sunday, senior Daniel Okereke found out he was admitted into the University of Maryland's engineering program, but it wasn't from a standard letter received in the mail.
"Before I had opened the door, we heard music first," Daniel said. "Then I was like, 'What is this?'"
Standing oustide Daniel's house were several University of Maryland representatives, the school's marching band, cameras from local news stations and even the school mascot (Testudo) as they welcomed Daniel into the Terp family.
"I didn't think it was real," Daniel said, "You always imagine that kind of stuff happening to other people and seeing that on the news. It was just really cool."
As he attempted to process what was happening around him, it was Daniel's mother who told him that she spoke to the admissions department at Maryland about sending a few representatives out to their house to share news of his admission and have pictures taken as a secret, late birthday present. That explains why she encouraged Daniel to get dressed in a suit that morning. But no one, including her, expected the extravagant display the university arranged.
Daniel earned a 4.3 GPA throughout his time at DeMatha, which more than displayed his academic prowess to get into the University of Maryland. But his admittance was also heartwarming because of the work Daniel puts in at home as he cares for his grandmother.
"She has dementia. She needs help eating so I feed her sometimes...Making sure she gets exercise because she's not going to be able to do it on her own. My mom has to travel a lot for work. She usually does day trips where she leaves in the morning and comes back at night, when she is able to."
Daniel said seeing the sacrifices his mother makes motivated him to do as well as he could at DeMatha.
"I see my mom working so hard and providing what she can for me," Daniel said, "I don't have a job, in terms of bringing in money, so it's just what I can do to help lessen the load on her."
DeMatha's senior college counselor Mr. Andrew Bright '03 said Daniel's combination of humility and ambition helped him attain success at DeMatha.
"He's always working," Mr. Bright said. "If you ever meet him, he's probably in the library or in a quiet space working because he knows that his time at home is spent taking care of his family. He is by far one of our top academic students and he's in some of our hardest classes."
Daniel hasn't made it official that he is attending Maryland yet as he waits to hear back from other schools and waits for information on scholarships, but he indicated that Maryland is near the top of his list.
With the surprise celebration, Daniel said he's now able to look back on the hard work he undertook to get him to where he is today.
"Seeing a long-term goal like college finally here, it just feels great knowing everything was worth it.