The common case of the busy, overloaded schedule and long, sleepless nights too often leave Belmont Hill’s campus to seem crowded with a sea of students fixated on their plans for the day. However, sometimes a simple “hello” or “hey, how’s it going” in the halls can lift your spirit and make your day. Many in the Belmont Hill community, whether a member of the faculty, staff, or student body, can pay testament to the spirit, enthusiasm, and compassion Mr. Ekwelum brings each and every day. His school-wide-known cheer and smile can become a beacon of energy and warmth even in the bleakest of days. Over the many years he has spent with the Belmont Hill community, Mr. Ekwelum’s energetic and spirited persona has impacted not only the lives of his students and advisees, but also the social environment of the entire community. As a member of the class of ‘08, Mr. Ekwelum has been a community leader within his class who has succeeded because of his passion for learning.
A former boarding student at Belmont Hill, Mr. Ekwelum is well-acquainted with all parts of the school; although much of the campus has changed since his graduation, the sense of community has not. When Mr. Ekwelum graduated from Belmont Hill, he wanted to become a medical doctor and live a similar life to Dr. Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show; that is, Cosby’s lifestyle of eating hoagies, delivering babies, and still being a part of his family, inspired Mr. Ekwelum. Mr. Ekwelum soon realized, however, that an actor portraying the lifestyle of a doctor is not necessarily similar to the difficult life of an actual doctor, and he began to explore different fields. Being an educator did not appeal to Mr. Ekwelum at first, as he believed that he did not have the patience to work with students; however, after living in a social justice house during his time at Columbia University, Mr. Ekwelum soon realized that he wanted to be a teacher, “as it offers (him) space to grow, both emotionally and intellectually, while also making small impacts along the way.” Mr. Ekwelum soon realized that he wanted to come back to Belmont Hill as a teacher; by the spring of 2012, Mr. Ekwelum knew that he would return to Belmont to teach.
As he recovered from the fatigue of four hard years at Columbia University, Mr. Ekwelum was not thinking much about his return to Belmont Hill as a faculty member; he was just thankful that he was able to secure a job so quickly out of college. Mr. Ekwelum decided to become a teacher, at least in part, because he wished to instill his love for learning in younger generations of students; as former First Form English students of Mr. Ekwelum, we can wholeheartedly attest to Mr. Ekwelum’s passion for learning, and, thankfully, some of it rubbed off on us. One of the hardest parts of Mr. Ekwelum’s transition back to Belmont Hill was his youth; besides being nearly as young as the oldest senior, Mr. Ekwelum now called former teachers, who were potentially forty years his senior, by their first names, which was naturally awkward at first. Mr. Collins, his faculty mentor, was instrumental in teaching Mr. Ekwelum not to be afraid to be himself and speak his mind, “which can be intimidating when you’re a young person amongst seasoned educators.” Mr. Collins, Mrs. David, and Mrs. Doherty, friends of Mr. Ekwelum while he was on campus as a student, helped the new teacher adjust to life as a faculty member; his transition back to campus would not have gone nearly as smoothly without their help. Other veteran faculty members, such as Ms. Zener, Mr. Carr, and Dr. Buckley, have given Mr. Ekwelum advice about both teaching and being an adult in the world, wisdom that will help him throughout his life.
In the future, Mr. Ekwelum wants to continue to be brave in the face of adversity, to keep advocating for justice and equality throughout the world, and, most importantly, to earn his PhD; there is no doubt in our minds that Mr. Ekwelum can accomplish anything he wants in life, as his leadership skills displayed on campus, both in the classroom, on the athletic fields, and during extracurricular activities, will enable him to take any path that he chooses. Mr. Ekwelum is not sure that he will return to Belmont Hill as an employee in the future; however, when he left campus for the first time, in 2008, he did not believe that he would return, showing that life is full of surprises. He is certain, however, that he will visit Belmont Hill as much as he can, both to see former teachers and coworkers and to lead students.
In the past three years, Mr. Ekwelum has had the opportunity to be at the forefront of introducing, welcoming, and including incoming boys to the Belmont Hill community. Personally, Mr. Ekwelum has become more than an advisor, he has become a life-long mentor and friend who has pushed me to involve myself in more roles throughout the community. In many ways, Mr. Ekwelum has helped me establish my value system as I have moved through the inner workings of Belmont Hill. It became evident that Mr. Ekwelum was truly invested in our lives as his advisees after having invited us as a group and individually to his classroom for talks, hangout sessions, and donuts even after we had graduated from his advisory group in the seventh grade. Having graduated Belmont Hill himself, Mr. Ekwelum has been someone whom I can reach out to about anything school or family related. He has guided me as a mentor, pushing me to explore my ethics and beliefs, and my limits and capabilities. Having introduced me to PRIDE (People Respecting Individual Differences Everywhere) as an eighth grader, Mr. Ekwelum sparked my drive to succeed as a leader at Belmont Hill, and I will always be grateful for that. Among the many lessons I have learned from him, I hope to adopt the energy, passion, and dedication he invests in everything he does, and continue to promote these values at Belmont Hill. Mr. Ekwelum will always be one of the first real friends I made at Belmont Hill, and I appreciate all he has done to help me grow and develop as a person and leader with all my heart and sincerity.
We are hopeful that we will frequently see Mr. Ekwelum on campus in the future; he will be sorely missed by all.