‘Princess’ is all about caring

After helping to raise three older brothers, Nigeria native Aghogho Okrokoto is relishing the opportunity to just be a teenager.
Okrokoto, whose friends call her Princess, found herself taking care of her brothers when her mother came to America in 2005 following her father’s arrival here a decade earlier.
“I took care of everybody,” said Okrokoto. “I was raised from a very young age to be independent and take care of others.”
She took care of the food, cooking and the house and although she was younger it made her “feel bigger than them.”
This desire to take care of others has led her to study nursing at Queensborough Community College (QCC), with the hopes of one day becoming a doctor.
Okrokoto, whose mother is a nursing assistant, has also recently received her certification as one.
She emigrated here in October 2007 with her three older brothers, just a month before she was to graduate from high school there.
Hoping they could put off the move until after the graduation, she said her brothers “didn’t want to wait one more month.”
She came here to “pursue the American dream” because there are “more opportunities here than in Nigeria.”
Okrokoto, who just finished her first semester at QCC, is using these opportunities to play the piano and write music, poetry and stories. Something she might not have been able to do back in her hometown of Warri, Nigeria.
“The school I went to was very strict. I could not let my hair down, wear make up or write about what I wanted,” she said.
Corporal punishment was not unusual if you wrote something deemed inappropriate, something that did not sit well with the self-described feminist.
“Women were regarded more as property,” she said, adding that it was very difficult for a woman to succeed in a country “dominated by men.”
Okrokoto fell in love with poetry after being “forced” to take a poetry class in high school. “I read an Emily Dickinson poem and was hooked. I wanted to write just liker her,” she said. She is also currently writing a romance novel.
Opportunities and freedom are great, but the first thing she wanted to do upon landing in her new home was shop.
“I always wanted to go to the mall,” she said. What seems like a minor matter was major, not just because there weren’t any malls where she lived, but because of what it represented. After having to help take care of the household, she could “actually be a teenager.”
“I can go out with my friends, hang out, relax,” she said.
All these things do not mean she doesn’t miss her home for the first 16 years of her life.
“During the winter here, I miss the warm weather of Nigeria,” said Okrokoto, who looks forward to “hibernating” during her winter break.
She also said she misses the hard labor she used to have to do. This included tending to plants, vegetables and livestock. To satisfy her outdoors’ needs, she has a garden in her backyard in St. Alban’s and still rides her bike like she did in Nigeria.
Something else she misses is having control of a household. She loves her ability to just be a teenager, but when she gets home she “want[s] to be a mom.”
“I want to be able to be a teenager and to make the rules,” she said, a sentiment that makes her like many other American teenagers, which is exactly what she wanted.