By Stephanie Llamas
Everyone hits rough patches in their life. For some, these rough patches can take such a toll that it prevents success. For others, there’s no choice but to rise above the adversity.
Former Riverside City College student Rocky Peter Ajoku is a Nigerian native, University of California Riverside graduate, Back to the Grind coffee shop local, peace ambassador and former season 14 American Idol contestant.
Ajoku, who is 27, was born in Oklahoma and soon began working for his uncle in Nigeria. Ajoku worked on a farm and taught himself english through conversations he had with random people. He was independent from a young age and would receive strict punishment if his guardians determined he was acting out of line.
Ajoku eventually raised enough money to help in his search for freedom. He relocated to the United States after middle school.
Ajoku pursued higher education, completing courses at RCC before transferring to the University of California Riverside, where he received a degree in biological sciences. In his spare time, Ajoku worked as a math and science tutor at local high schools.
Aside from his scholastic achievements, music was always Ajoku’s passion. He was known to wander the UCR campus at night, singing in the halls and below the clock tower, as he searched for the perfect resonance of sound to rehearse his songs.
RCC student Antonio Duran, who was previously featured in viewpoints, is a current guitarist for Ajoku.
Duran described Ajoku’s musical presence at UCR.
“Everyone knew him as a singer and he would sing for anyone,” said Duran.
Ajoku expanding his audience by performing regularly at open mic nights in downtown Riverside at local coffee shops such as Back to the Grind. He even created his own YouTube channel. His efforts prepared him to face one of the most challenging ventures – auditioning for American Idol.
One day, an undercover American Idol producer commented anonymously on one of his videos that gained over 300 views, vouching for him to consider an audition.
Although Ajoku was eventually eliminated from the competition, he worked extremely hard to continue his success by keeping a positive attitude.
“My roots (are) going out into the streets and singing,” Ajoku said.
Ajoku’s path took him to the Olympic games in Rio during the summer of 2016 where he performed. He was essentially the voice of their campaign.
Ajoku is also began advocating for the child slavery epidemic after being invited to the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. There he spoke about the obstacles he faced as a child while enduring trafficking and child slavery.
“We worked on the farms for many hours at a time, sixteen to seventeen hours a day, under the blazing sun, under heavy rain and under all kinds of environmental conditions,” Ajoku said. “We were brutally beaten when we weren’t working fast enough and we were … under fed.”
Ajoku’s most recently has collaborated with Peace Through Commerce, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Ajoku works with the organization to bring awareness of child labor and human trafficking.
“There (are) kids in third world countries that deserve a better life,” Ajoku said.
Peace Through Commerce encourages sponsors to invest into education so that more children will be given the opportunity to be educated. This concept is something that Ajoku feels strongly about.
“By investing into education, more kids won’t have to be forced to join gangs, terrorist organizations or be enslaved,” Ajoku said.
Because of the hardships and accomplishments Ajoku has experienced, he offered some advice.
“Carry on and don’t stop believing,” said Ajoku. “Keep working hard and at the right time things will happen.”
Ajoku plans to fund his own scholarship from proceeds that come from his concerts. The scholarship is targeted at diverse students who maintain a 4.0 gpa.
Ajoku’s goal is to motivate children to do better in school by rewarding good grades with checks and raffles involving cash prizes.
With the proceeds of his concerts, Ajoku hopes to expand his scholarship fund as well as his career. In 2017, Ajoku said he will try to spread his reward program to as many Riverside schools as possible. He also hopes to expand his project to Africa.
Ajoku has experienced immense obstacles and never fails to rise above them all. His accomplishments often serve as an inspiration for those who seek to pursue their passion, but never had the courage to take the first step.
Ajoku plans to host his first ever solo concert at the UCR Theatre on Dec 3. Tickets are available directly through his personal Facebook and Instagram accounts.