Ask anyone and they’re sure to have vivid memories of where they were when a significant event in their life occurred.
The Apollo 11 moon landing. The 9/11 tragedy. The Yankees defeating the Mets in the 2000 Subway Series (this is a sports story, after all).
When her big day came, Tiffany Chyke Okpuzor was no different.
It was college acceptance season and the former Bronx Science soccer and basketball star was sweating out a letter from her dream school, the University of Pennsylvania. It was a day she had waited for and visualized for many years. And early last spring, that day was about to arrive.
“I had applied to four Ivy League schools, and I put them in order of least important to most important with UPenn my top choice,” Chyke Okpuzor said.
“When I heard from all the other schools, I was perfectly fine when I saw ”congratulations” in my acceptance letters. “I was very happy.”
But there was still no word from UPenn, until a day in late March.
“When the letter came from UPenn, my hands were shaking and I kept looking at my parents. They were all gathered around me, and I was like, ‘I can’t do this,’ I was so afraid. It had been my dream forever to go to UPenn, and if I didn’t get in, I don’t know what would have happened.”
This time “congratulations” was not the first thing Chyke Okpuzor saw.
“I opened the letter and saw confetti, and I was so happy and I gave my whole family a hug,” Chyke Okpuzor said, laughing. “Then I started texting and calling my friends and other family members to let them know the great news. I actually didn’t eat for the next 25 hours. Too excited, too many things to do.”
Now as each day gets crossed off her calendar, Chyke Okpuzor is one day closer to heading to Philadelphia and UPenn’s Wharton School of Business.
“I can’t wait,” she said. “It’s been my top choice since I decided I wanted to major in finance.”
But before she heads to the land of the Liberty Bell and cheesesteaks, Chyke Okpuzor looked back on her time as a Wolverine.
“I had a good four-year run at Bronx Science, but as with everything, I was ready for a change,” she said. “But I will miss Bronx Science, especially my kids. One of the most important things I’ve gained from all of my years on sports teams at Bronx Science is my younger friends. I call them my kids. I watched them grow up, and it’s just weird now to call them juniors and seniors when I’ve known them since they were freshmen. I’m really going to miss them.”
Chyke Okpuzor was not only a senior leader on a sophomore-dominated basketball team, but she also was the program’s mother hen. And she thinks she had a definite impact on “her kids.”
“I like to think so,” she said. “It was only my second year on the team, but I kind of stepped into that role.”
Her leadership and her play on the soccer field and basketball court were exemplary. In her final two seasons on the soccer pitch, Chyke Okpuzor helped guide the Wolverines to a combined 20-0 regular season record, a Bronx A Division championship, and two deep runs in the Public School Athletic League’s postseason.
She enjoyed equal success in basketball as she was instrumental in the Wolverines’ 33-4 regular-season mark over the past two seasons, which also included a division title and two significant playoff runs.
“Soccer helped me make friends in the beginning of my freshman year,” Chyke Okpuzor said. “So it was really helpful in that respect. Then with basketball I made a lot more friends. But they also became a home away from home because every team I was on, you’re spending all this time with this specific close-knit group of people.”
Chyke Okpuzor plans to return to Science during basketball season to check on “her kids.” Maybe even in time for homecoming. But right now it’s time to get on with living that dream and experiencing all UPenn and Philadelphia can offer.
Oh, and cheesesteaks. Don’t forget the cheesesteaks.
“I’ve been to Philly with my family before, and every time we were there, we made sure to buy cheesesteaks,” Chyke Okpuzor said.
But which of the legendary gastronomic outlets will she frequent: Pat’s or Geno’s?
“We went to Geno’s the first time, but the last time we were there we went to Pat’s,” Chyke Okpuzor said. “So I’ll have to figure that one out.”