By Tate Luckey

Senior Moyo Olayemi was actually at her job when she got the call that she was one of the winners of the University of Louisville Cardinal Award. Excitedly, she called her parents to tell them the news.

Olayemi, who’s a political science and public health major, has always prioritized her family her entire college career.

“I never felt like just doing well in school is satisfactory. I wanted to see more of what I could accomplish to make them proud, especially for their sacrifices. That’s a big factor in doing what I do — just making my parents proud,” she said.

Senior and 2023 Cardinal Award winner Moyo Olayemi with her family

Moyo Olayemi

Olayemi’s campus involvement resume is understandably extensive. She’s the executive director of the Engage Lead Serve Board, was previously vice president of the Society of Porter Scholars, and is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Her post-college plans include practicing healthcare law.  In her downtime, she is a certified fitness trainer.

“Take advantage of what’s put in front of your face — the campus orgs want people to get involved,” Olayemi said. Though she admits she started college very shy, Moyo credits the breadth of her extracurriculars to her growth as a leader, especially when plans go awry.

“When you’re leading in a position where people are sharing the same vision, it’s often more important to think about the goal that we are reaching, instead of how. I think we often get caught up in small details, and how you think something should go when there is often more benefit in thinking of how we want people to feel or what they get from that goal,” she said. “Not to say that the details aren’t important, but this is something you have to keep in the back of your mind.”

Prior to her promotion to executive director, Olayemi spent two years as the director of ELSB’s Equality and Justice Committee. What she initially loved was being part of an organization where everyone is so passionate about what they wanted the campus to look like. She continued to try and foster this community building during her time as vice president of the Porter Scholars despite the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brought.

“Being able to cultivate a community on campus, especially in the black community, was really difficult; we were still able to find some success and see people come together,” she said.

Z’Naja Talbott

Z’naja Talbott, a senior public health major, had a similar sentiment about her fellow Porters, saying that “being a Porter scholar [is] more than a scholarship to me; it got me connected with many opportunities, and I feel like as a mentor, my students motivate me too.”

Z’naja Talbott with her family

Talbott, an Owensboro native, is currently on track to be a dental hygienist. Her experiences with being a member of the Student Orientation Staff and a resident assistant on campus have shifted her goals to help those who are first-generation students like her.

“I feel like the U of L community has helped me a lot as a first-gen student. I want to find ways to be able to connect with other people who are not only first-gen but those who are worried or doubtful about their abilities in school,” she said.

While Talbott’s own parents can’t always share advice related to her academic troubles, she does appreciate that they can listen, saying that “just because someone has not been down this pathway does not mean that that they can’t help you.”

Senior Z’naja Talbott with her cohort of students as an SOSer

For servant-leaders like Talbott, though, it’s the ability to advise her own students that motivates her, saying: “To be able to help assist students, helped them as much as I’ve been helped, is very rewarding for me.”

You can learn more about them and the Cardinal Award here.

Photo Courtesy // Moyo Olayemi, Z’Naja Talbott //