By Brian Harper
The first lesson Aghogho Edevbie learned at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy has stayed with him since.
“Men for others, men for others, men for others,” says Edevbie. “They really emphasize that throughout your time there. I have this belief rooted in the magis: if you have the ability to help others, you should.”
This belief did more than lead Edevbie to Tanzania to teach at a Jesuit boarding school. It spurred him to scale Africa’s highest mountain in honor of the Jesuits who taught, worked with, and inspired him.
The seeds of his journey were planted at a lunch with Br. Jim Boynton, SJ, after Edevbie graduated from the University of Michigan. Brother Boynton, a Jesuit who taught Edevbie in high school, made a surprising suggestion.
“Brother Boynton said, ‘I really think you should see the developing world and work there,’” recalls Edevbie. “I’ve known him since my freshman year of high school, and it’s the only thing he’s ever asked me to do.”
A law degree came first, but before beginning a job with a business law firm, Edevbie thought, ‘This is the perfect time to go be a man for others.’
At Br. Boynton’s recommendation and with help from Fr. Marty Connell, SJ, and Jesuits in Tanzania, Edevbie arranged to go to Dodoma to teach at St. Peter Claver High School, a Jesuit boarding school.
|Aghogho Edevbie with St. Peter Claver students on his last day at the school
He ran into problems almost immediately. Assigned to teach civics, Edevbie prepared a detailed outline, which a colleague in the school office copied but did not collate. After spending half of his first class organizing papers with students, he rushed the first lesson, and the students asked him to re-teach it.
Initial test scores were not promising: only 20 percent of students received an A or B.
But Edevbie was driven, and so were his students.
“They spend every day, every week at the school. Despite being away from their families, having long days, they are committed to learning. Even kids that struggled got better.” By the final exam, 63 percent of students obtained an A or B.
After two and a half months teaching, Edevbie began his next adventure: hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. The trek was Edevbie’s way of paying homage to his Jesuit mentors.
“They’re very determined to live their lives for the greater good,” says Edevbie. “I’ve always wanted to encapsulate in my life the determination and selflessness I see embodied in the Jesuits. If the Jesuits could sacrifice all they have, I could at least climb this mountain.”
The trip to Gilman’s Point, one of the mountain’s peaks, took five days and brought Edevbie close to exhaustion.
“Every day, I had a conversation with myself: should I quit or go on?” remembers Edevbie. “And I always said, ‘Let’s give it another day.’”
On the day he reached the summit, he was falling behind the group, and several guides pressed him to turn back. One offered to run to the top and take a photo on his behalf. Edevbie refused.
“He was saying, ‘This’ll be our secret,’” says Edevbie. “I couldn’t face people and say that. It’s not who I am. It’s not how I was raised. It’s not what the Jesuits are about.”
Fifteen minutes later, Edevbie reached his goal.
“It was an amazing sense of accomplishment.”
|Aghogho Edevbie after reaching one of Mount Kilimanjaro’s peaks
After taking in the extraordinary view and struggling down the mountain, Edevbie journeyed back to the United States. The lessons gained in Tanzania have endured.
“The combined experiences have helped me weather some storms,” Edevbie says. “You just have to have the confidence in yourself and in God that He’s going to show you the right way through it.”
He hopes to eventually return to Tanzania and is currently helping St. Peter Claver fundraise to install a new well for students to access safe water. His students, some of whom he corresponds with via Facebook, continue to motivate him from afar.
So do the Jesuits.
“A lot of my life and how I think and feel about things were shaped by my experiences at U of D Jesuit,” Edevbie says. “So going into teaching at St. Peter Claver, I was very impressed. I came away even more impressed having lived there.”
To learn more about St. Peter Claver High School’s water well and support the project, visit https://connect.jesuitsmidwest.org/st.peterclaverwaterproject.
“I’ve always wanted to encapsulate in my life the determination and selflessness I see embodied in the Jesuits.”