Miss Kenya USA speaks on passion, purpose
Mia Marroquin | Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Wendy Oduor, Miss Kenya USA and a 2014 Saint Mary’s alumna, spoke to the importance of relationship-building and mental health in her keynote speech at the annual Martin Luther King dinner Wednesday night in Rice Commons.
Miss Kenya USA is an annual pageant held in Houston, Texas. According to its website, the organization pairs contestants with organizations working to combat inequalities Kenya and the U.S.
Though she holds degrees in biology and psychology, Oudor currently works in fashion in New York City. After graduation, Oduor spent time at home working in the medical industry before making the decision to apply to the Parsons School of Design in Manhattan.
“My acceptance to Parsons was a green light from God,” Oduor said.
Taking this sign, Oduor packed her bags and moved to the Big Apple.
Oduor attributes her four years at Saint Mary’s as the foundation for what she has accomplished today.
“If you were to ask me four years ago, I would have told you that my degree from Saint Mary’s was a waste because I was not directly using the biology or psychology — but today, I know that it is so much more than that,” she said.
She said returning to campus and speaking to a new generation of Belles was a meaningful experience for her.
“Being back on campus is so surreal, it is a truly humbling experience,” Oduor said. “The fact that I am able to be here tonight is a testament that God is a man of his words.”
Oduor said she urges current Saint Mary’s students to curate relationships, whether it be the girl you pass in the hall or your future bridesmaid.
“It is so important to make time for relationships,” Oduor said. “It doesn’t matter how close you are or not, [if] you don’t know what they are going to be doing one year [or] five years from now and how that could benefit you.”
Odour said this mindset helped her maintain a years-long relationship with Interim President Nancy Nekvasil, a longstanding Saint Mary’s biology professor.
After losing her brother to suicide during her senior year, Oduor became an outspoken mental health advocate.
”I use a lot of the psychology that I learned at Saint Mary’s in the work that I do surrounding mental health advocacy,” she said. ”Acknowledging the grief allowed me to heal and move forward and establish where I am today.”
In addition to speaking at social events, Oduor utilizes Instagram as a platform to share stories and engage with her followers about mental health. She hosts weekly Mental Health Monday livestreams to spread awareness of the issue.
Oduor said she places a high value on finding and pursuing ones’ passions.
“It is God’s version of my vision. I would not have been able to heal if I did not find my purpose and allow God to work through me,” she said. “Passion is for you, purpose is for others. God gives us the tools to turn our passions into our purpose.”