This article, written by Lydia Voles, was recently featured in the Hartford Courant. You can see the original article HERE.
Uzoma Agbasionye has not seen his mother, his brother, or his extended family in back home in Nigeria since August 2011. That is when the now 19-year-old, 6’11’’ senior first set foot on Hyde School’s Woodstock, CT campus as a sophomore, full of hope and dreams of playing high school basketball and achieving a better education than what his small village could offer him. When Uzo, as he is known on campus, was first approached by Hyde, his mother insisted that academics always be made a priority for her son and not basketball, a sport that he loves and one in which he excels. It was only after she was given assurance that this would, indeed, be the case that she agreed to let her first-born son move halfway around the world by himself.
Despite his new teachers and surroundings, Uzo excelled at Hyde, both in the classroom and on the basketball court. He was amazed at the stark difference between his distant and unapproachable teachers in Nigeria and the warm, welcoming staff at Hyde. An avid cook, Uzo is often invited to cook his favorite – rice and beans – in the staff quarters. “I was always in fear of my teachers back home and afraid to ask a question,” he says. “At Hyde, the entire staff if so helpful and open; I can talk with them as equals.”
The primary goal of Hyde, an independent school that has been a leader in “family-based character education” since first opening its doors in Bath, Maine in 1966 is the personal growth of Hyde’s students, and Uzo is no exception. After being at Hyde just one month, he was told by an orthopedic surgeon that he would never play basketball again and underwent a double knee surgery. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Uzo chose to turn the experience into a positive and focused on developing his character and leadership skills. He became a mainstay of the Hyde community and an integral part of many of the students’, parents’ and faculty’s lives. Uzo has resumed playing a few minutes of basketball in each game because he likes the camaraderie and competition, but knows there is so much more to life than sports.
Uzo, who has a keen interest in science, does not want his American education to end at Hyde and is working with the school’s staff on affordable options for college. “Hyde has given me the opportunity to focus on my character and to let me be in charge of my own destiny,” he adds. “My experience here has been a gift and I am so grateful to be here.”
Uzo hopes to return to Nigeria following his graduation in May.