By: Amy Xiang
To say that Simi Ayinde has a global perspective on life would be an understatement. The ACLP Chief of Staff was born in Rhode Island, grew up in Nigeria, attended boarding school in the UK, and ultimately came to the US for college.
Simi looks back fondly at her childhood in Nigeria, where she enjoyed going to school and playing with her friends. At age 13, however, Simi was “shipped off” to boarding school in Canterbury, near London. Though she initially struggled with being away from home and adapting to a different culture, Simi eventually warmed up to her new environment.
“I made a lot of friends that I wouldn’t have made otherwise and I was exposed to a larger variety of subjects in school,” Simi said. “That was a lot different than in Nigeria, where you are basically labeled a ‘science person’ or ‘art person’ — but not both.”
When the time came to choose colleges, coming to the US wasn’t originally in the picture since Simi felt it was too far away from her parents in Nigeria. However, after learning more about the US college system, Simi decided that going to the US, specifically the Wharton School, would be the best fit for her.
“I really liked the flexibility that US colleges provided. In the UK, when you apply for your specific major, you’re more or less binded to it and it’s much harder to switch,” Simi said, adding that she was looking for management programs in particular, which many schools in the UK didn’t offer.
At Penn, Simi is studying organizational management and marketing at Wharton and is involved with Nigerians at Penn, Black Wharton, the Black Ivy League Business Conference, as well as Penn Gospel Choir and God’s Property.
Simi’s journey with ACLP began her sophomore year when she became a volunteer to help students learn English. Soon after, Aminata Sy (ACLP Founder) reached out and asked if she wanted the position of secretary, which Simi took on alongside Naphekie Taloute (current ACLP Operations Manager).
“It was basically a three-person team: Aminata, Naphekie, and me. It was a lot of work. Our secretary role involved sending emails, posting on social media, making videos, reaching out to guest speakers, organizing trips, and just a lot of logistics,” Simi said.
Simi then became the lead tutor in fall 2019 and had even more responsibility on her plate. Then, in summer 2020, with the new leadership team on board, Simi officially became the chief of staff.
Aside from ACLP, which Simi said is her number one focus this summer, she is working with Penn Community Engagement, attending a L’Oreal virtual academy for her cancelled internship, and binge-watching many shows on Netflix.
Simi is extremely excited about the direction the program is heading and hopes that ACLP will run successfully long after she graduates.
“Naphekie and I have been a part of the program since very early on and we held together a lot of the ropes,” Simi said. “I'm really looking forward to seeing the whole leadership team grow and to see who will carry on the torch after us.”