A Conversation with Faith Agboola
If you’ve followed our work for a while, you may remember Faith Agboola, former CommonBond resident and current student at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, from her feature in our 2020 Celebration at Home Gala.
As part of our 50th anniversary year theme, “Our Neighbors, Our Communities,” we were thrilled to reconnect with Faith. She’s now finished her first year of college, is a prospective political science major—and at the time of this interview, she was in the middle of a study abroad program in Copenhagen, Denmark! Faith’s reflections below—namely, the importance of learning how to ask for help, the necessity of individualized support, and helping when and where you can—shed light on our work in building strong, vibrant communities.
CBC: When we last spoke with you were about to begin your first year at Carleton College. How was the transition?
Faith: With my transition to Carleton, and now being done with my first year, I’m going to be honest that there were a lot of challenges—but in everything I learned some really critical lessons. One main lesson was learning how to say no to things that were not for me or that didn’t align with my purpose. Being involved in so much in high school, trying to uphold that reputation of ‘doing all the things’ in college, I knew that wasn’t going to be possible, but that I was going to struggle with fighting that tendency. So that definitely was a challenge, but understanding my focus of why I’m there, and reconnecting with my purpose, really helped me move through that.
Another challenge was imposter syndrome—that hit me hard. I’d tell myself that I wasn’t good enough to be here, or I’d look at everything else others had accomplished before they came here. So that was tough to surmount, but I’m happy to say that I grew out of that for the most part.
And even in light of all of these challenges, I’m feeling really grateful to God for even finishing my first year of college, especially knowing that so many folks don’t even have access to college. So, recognizing there were real challenges in my first year, but I’m also holding a lot of gratitude.
CBC: Reflecting on your first year and the challenges you just mentioned, what supports do you think are most important for students?
Faith: I think support for everyone looks differently, feels differently, and can be given in different ways. For me, a main support I needed—as a first generation college student attending a very expensive college—was financial support. My family is a low income household, so that was a little scary for me. While I was on a full scholarship and tuition was taken care of, there’s always those hidden expenses, like needing to buy groceries. To that end, Carleton distributed funds to students in need in the form of COVID relief care packages, and I was also lucky to receive additional monetary support that way.
I also think my family’s financial situation—and safety, for that matter, because my mom works in the healthcare field—worried me more than many of my own situation at school. It was so important to have emotional support, as well—and for that I turned to my church family back home, the Christian club at Carleton, my advisors in TRIO, and the circle of friends I developed.
I also want to acknowledge that there are some students during this pandemic who did not feel any support. One lesson that I learned is navigating how to support everyone in the way they need to be supported. Figuring out how to support my peers while also caring for my owns needs can be difficult in the moment—but it was an important learning process, and one that I’m sure I’ll carry with me.
CBC: In your experience now—a year into college and in the middle of this study abroad program—how do you see the opportunities that came with having stable housing influencing your life today?
Faith: CommonBond youth programs definitely helped education wise. Just being able to have a tutor and not having to worry financially about tutoring was huge! I loved having a tutor—and Marilyn really became a lifelong mentor for me. So, Study Buddies, as well as other community-building activities through CommonBond’s programming were so impactful, because I always knew I had a community to return to if I needed resources or help.
That support growing up has influenced my life in tangible ways: I used to be someone who was scared to ask for help, because I am a very self-motivated person, and there’s a part of me that thinks I should know how to do things. What I’ve realized is that there’s no shame in asking for help—and I learned this through Study Buddies. Marilyn would always ask me, ‘do you need help?’ and would reassure me that it’s ok to not know the answer all the time. In college, I’ve had to come to terms with this because you’re not going to know everything, regardless of if you think you should know it. I’ve taken this skill with me even here in Copenhagen—I’ve had to ask people how to get on the bus, how to get on the metro... But people want to help! No one wants to say no. It’s just a matter of asking for help.
CBC: How has the past year shaped how you think of home?
Faith: I think the quote “home is where the heart is” is so true, because in many ways it’s not a physical place, but more where you find the most comfort and love and support that you need. But it also is having a roof over your head. To me, this year, home was a place of sacredness and safety, because I knew I was safe from the virus at home. And yet, home was also a place of anxiousness sometimes; as I said, my mom works in the healthcare industry—so I couldn’t hug her, or sometimes she wouldn’t be able to come home because she had to work a double shift.
It also made me think of people who don’t have homes during the pandemic. It was just hard to see, because I know that our city can do better, our state can do better. So again, feeling gratitude for the home that I do have. I’d say this year has deepened my view of home as sacredness, safety, and protection.
CBC: And lastly, why should communities invest in affordable housing and programs for adults and youth?
Faith: That’s a big question—and an important one. I think we started this conversation with the understanding that home is a necessity. Having a roof over your head is a necessity—no matter your circumstance, where you’re coming from or going, everyone needs a place to live.
We also talked a lot about helping and support, too. My mom instilled in me the idea that if you have the opportunity to help someone, take it—because you never know how you might transform someone’s life, or how they might transform yours. So no matter how big or small the task is—even if it’s a big as investing in housing, we have to help. Because having a home is last thing someone should have to worry about.
My hope is that you all hear what I’m saying today and take it on where you are—you can help in some way, shape, or form. It doesn’t matter how big or small the investment is. As long as you did your job and helped someone with a basic need, a necessity, like having a roof over their head—you’ve done your job for the day. And I say that not inspire apathy or stop us from pushing for more, but to realize that we all have the ability to help. We all can step up, and learn how we can support one another.