Oluwadamilola “Dami” Awofisayo of Woodbridge is one of 20 students selected to the 2021-2022 class of Foot Locker Scholar Athletes.
Awofisayo fell in love with technology while attending Thomas Jefferson High School, the regional magnet school in Fairfax County. She joined science and technology organizations designed for women and participated in hackathons – events that bring techies together and challenge them to design software projects on a time crunch.
Her applications to join some hackathons were rejected so she inspected the hackathon communities and noticed lots of inequities – especially with gender. Awofisayo responded by founding her own virtual hackathon, TecHacks, for high school and college female and non-binary students.
“That rejection pushed me to take an outsider’s perspective of the community and see if there’s anything I can provide as a Black woman and student in these spaces that hasn’t been there before,” she said.
Awofisayo tries to make diverse perspectives accessible and bountiful, “because sometimes they’re so few and far between,” she said.
She represented her school in the Student Equity Ambassador Leader program and became familiar with other schools’ equity groups and brought their lessons back to Thomas Jefferson by founding the Student Equity Coalition.
“[We] focus on the multidimensional aspects and identities that our school has and make sure that everybody not only feels seen, recognized and valued but also that everyone else understands the value of equity,” she said.
Awofisayo has also created a handful of apps that combat inequities by expanding on social goods. One of the apps uses hand detection to teach users American Sign Language. Another helps to combat food waste by targeting amateur planters. They’re all in the prototype stage, but she wants to start an initiative focused around one of those projects using her scholarships.
She explored the Foot Locker Scholarship because she said sports contribute to building character. Awofisayo credits playing basketball for her mentality. She didn’t start playing until high school, so she had to put in the work to catch up. Her freshman team was undefeated in their district for the first time in a long time and she made varsity the following year.
She was team captain last year. “With sports I was able to understand the importance of a person and their contribution to any initiative doesn’t have to be a flashy thing. You look and [ask], what does this need and how can I best use or learn abilities to solve that?”
Awofisayo is entering Duke University this fall as a Robertson Scholar and has a cushion of coverage with the additional $20,000 from the Foot Locker Scholarship. As is the goal of the scholarship, she is motivated to use the financial freedom to spend her time on projects.
“I’m interested in that entrepreneurship and innovation that comes with coding, but also how I can use these skills for social good. There are a lot of inequities in this world,” she said. For the next four years and beyond, she will be working to address them.