For Irving High School senior Melissa Asigbe, the importance of honoring her rich culture and background is something that was instilled in her at a young age. A native of Lagos, Nigeria, Asigbe moved to the United States with her family in December 2020 and enrolled at Irving High the following January – an experience she says was a complete culture shock at first.

“Growing up in Nigeria was very different,” she says. “I attended boarding school where I would start each day at 5 AM. We’d have devotion followed by classes throughout the day and then we’d have night study in the evenings with our classmates. Everything took place on campus. Now, I start my mornings by getting on the bus to come to school. I will say that in Irving, I love that my teachers educate in a way to make sure their students understand, and I love that.”

Fast forward to today, Asigbe has adjusted to life in the States quite well and still manages to keep her family values and culture at the forefront.

“My parents always taught me to get good grades, so that instilled in me to work hard and to have high standards for myself,” adds Asigbe.

She also heavily credits her mother and late grandmother for serving as inspirations and for shaping her into the person she is today.

“My grandmother passed away a few years ago, and she lived with us for a time. She shaped me in a different way- always there to give me life lessons and advice to focus on my studies. Her dedication to her grandchildren was amazing,” says Asigbe. “And I love my mom so much. We spend a lot of quality time in the kitchen cooking, and that’s when we share some of the best moments. She always encourages me to do my best and to focus on my studies, God and becoming a doctor.”

It was after moving to the United States that Asigbe became educated on Black History Month and ways it’s celebrated here. While this was a new custom to her, she says that she was very excited about it.

“As Black people, it’s so important that we honor, respect and value what we currently have and what we’ve been through as a people,” Asigbe adds.

For Asigbe, it’s important to celebrate not only African-American history, but her African culture and heritage as well. Whether eating Nigerian foods like egusi soup and fufu, listening to AfroBeats artists like Burna Boy or showcasing her culture through different hairstyles, these are things she holds dear to her heart.

Recently, the City of Irving held an essay competition for students in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Asigbe discovered the opportunity through the district’s Canvas page and immediately became intrigued. After the support and encouragement of her parents, Asigbe took a leap of faith and submitted an essay for the competition. To her surprise and excitement, she received first place in her grade division (9th – 12th grade) and the opportunity to read her essay at a special ceremony held at the Irving Arts Center.

“This was my first time doing something like that, and I loved it”, she says. “Dr. King’s dedication to the people – his impact and courage – is so inspiring, which is why I decided to go for this opportunity in the first place.”

After graduating in May, Asigbe plans to major in nursing at the University of Texas at Austin to begin her journey of becoming a doctor.