DGS was only the beginning to Maudlyne Ihejirika’s success


Sarah Barber

“Find your voice … your voice is so critical today … use your voice,” Ihejirika said.

Maudlyne Ihejirika and her family fled from the Nigerian war when she was five years old. Ihejirika and her family lived on the south side of Chicago for a period of time and in 1977 they moved to Woodridge and into district 99.

Ihejirika spoke on her experience as a minority in a mostly white neighborhood and school district in a speech to the DGS student body. Ihejirika said that her family was the first black family on her block in Woodridge. After moving in, there was a brick thrown through a window of her home and the n-word was spray painted on her family’s garage door.

Senior Joseph Koenig spoke on his view on Ihejirika’s experience and the history of DGS’s diversity.

“It was interesting to hear about DGS from a long time ago … It was also interesting hearing about the lack of diversity at DGS and comparing it [to] now. She also has an impressive career that was interesting to hear about even if I don’t plan on going into those fields,” Koenig said.

Ihejirika is now a journalist with the Chicago Sun-Times; she is an award-winning journalist and frequent contributor to CNN, PBS, ABC, NPR and numerous other outlets.

Ihejirika graduated from DGS in 1981 and attended the University of Iowa, earning a bachelor’s degree and went on to earn her master’s degree from Northwestern University.

When asked about her time at DGS, Ihejirika spoke positively about her high school experience and what it taught her.

“Downers Grove South was where it all began. The lessons I learned here have served me well throughout college and throughout my career. I think that Downers Grove South … provided me with the highest quality education … that’s the one thing you can say that you will get here is a high-quality education,” Ihejirika said.

Ihejirika was also named one of the five 2018 Distinguished Alumni of DGS on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018 and gave a presentation to students after her induction.

“[Her presentation was] important because South High offers many resources and if students are willing to keep their hearts and minds open they too can find people who will stand by them and help them navigate some of the difficulties that come with being a teenager in today’s world,” social studies teacher Derek Hoovel said.

Principal Edward Schwartz gave insight on what made Ihejirika a candidate for the Distinguished Alumni; praised her achievements.  

“[She was a good candidate] because of what she has accomplished in her field. She’s very decorated in the career she chose to go into and she’s made a huge impression on a lot of people; she has a platform that reaches a lot,” Schwartz said.

After she was inducted, Ihejirika spoke to students at DGS. One of the focuses of her presentation was how students can use their voices to make a difference.

“Find your voice … your voice is so critical today … use your voice,” Ihejirika said.

Junior Katarina Stanley commented on the impact Ihejirika’s presentation had and what she took away from it.

“I think that the student body [benefitted] from her presentation … She spoke about our roles in society, and how speaking our mind and standing up for the things that we think deserve more attention are crucial for us today … I had a list of things that I wanted to get done after listening to her speak, almost like she was subconsciously telling me to make a change and how to do it,” Stanley said.

Ihejirika is an extremely successful journalist, with many awards under her belt. When asked for advice for student journalists she said that students should be writing early on in their careers and frequently.

“I always tell students it’s never too early to start. You should be writing now and you should be writing often … it’s never too early to write for your school newspaper … One of the things I regretted when I got to college and realized this was what I wanted to do for a living was that I didn’t work for my school newspaper,” Ihejirika said.

Junior Kevin Tate explains why her story was important for the student body to hear.

“She was so inspiring … the fact she comes from this school and has endured so many hardships over the years makes anything seem possible. Being appreciative and utilizing the resources this school has to offer can lead to the success that she continues to have,” Tate said.