Stand up and be counted : The Young Offender's Demi Isaac Oviawe on college and school life

Stand up and be counted : The Young Offender's Demi Isaac Oviawe on college and school life

I did my Leaving Cert in June and have just started college this week, so my school experience is extremely fresh in my memory. I went to Davis College in Mallow and it was a fantastic experience. I was the loud obnoxious child at the back of the classroom from day one. I had to (and still do, by the way) have an opinion on everything.

I think from primary school to the first few years of secondary school I was constantly in trouble, but then come fourth, fifth and sixth year I think I mellowed a bit and wasn’t as obnoxious. When I was in primary school I was picked on a little bit and I realised then that if I didn’t vocalise my thoughts and my opinions then I would not be left alone by these children. I thought to myself ‘do what you want to do, and don’t care about what people say’ — it was a kind of stubbornness, I think. And a coping mechanism.

I will stand up for someone who is being bullied. I feel like if someone can’t defend themselves, then I’m the kind of person who will stand in there and say what needs to be said on their behalf. I was picked on, from first to fourth class, and then I changed school and things got a little better for me. I am a very strong-minded person, and I think I coped very well despite experiencing bullying.

I made friends quite easily. I didn’t care what group you were a part of, whether you were big into the GAA or one of the girls who liked to wear fake tan or one of the people who liked to talk about computers — I spoke to everyone. I like talking to people, and I think that’s why I want to go into a career presenting shows and interviewing people.

In secondary school, you think popularity is everything, so you try to gather as many friends as you can. Towards the end of the secondary school cycle, you might find that you have only two or three friends, and that happens to everyone, it’s completely normal. I have people that I can talk to, but I also have people I can trust. I have a healthy amount of friends, I would say.

My dad passed away when I was 15 and my mum passed when I was five. I am the oldest, with four younger brothers and I live with my dad’s fiancé  — Kim, my stepmum — and my uncle and my brothers. I’ve been through a lot, considering my age.

My dad was really into the importance of education and encouraged us to pursue it as far as we could. He also wanted us to stand up to people who made us feel bad, and I think that had a big effect on me. He always said, if someone punches you, punch them back — he wanted me to know how to stand up for myself.

I live with Kim, my stepmum and my uncle and my four younger brothers. Kim used to tell me that my time at secondary school would be the years that I would remember forever, and I used to laugh — I thought to myself, ‘get me out of here as fast as I can’. Do you know what though? Now that I have done a few months out of school, I realise that she was right. My brothers were getting their school stuff last month and I started to crave the routine and I think the safety of what I knew.

I’m in college, studying radio broadcasting now and it is clear that the future is adulthood — it’s scary.

In the majority, my teachers encouraged me. During my first year, an SNA told me that she could see me making it big. I remember laughing in her face and she said to me, ‘you have a very big personality and I can see you being an actor or something along those lines. She believed in me.’ Most of my teachers were extremely caring and thoughtful and understanding to me throughout my school years.

My advice to anyone in school today is don’t care what people think. If I had a chance to chat to my younger self today I would tell her not to care so much.

No matter what you do in life, if you try to prove people right, another group of people are going to prove you wrong. If you try to prove them wrong, the other people are going to prove you right. There is no pleasing anyone unless you are pleasing yourself.

The only thing you can do in this whole world is not listening to what anyone says and make your own decisions. Growing up, I tried to please everyone, I tried to make everyone happy, but one thing that I have found is that the less you try to please people, the more peaceful your life becomes.

Demi Isaac Oviawe is this year’s Cork County Culture Night Ambassador.

Culture Night is a countrywide event which takes place on Friday, September 20. There are free events taking place with something for everyone. Pick up a brochure or culturenightcorkcounty.ie

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