‘Outsider’ destroys label

Scholar conquers stereotypes, achieves educational goals

By Michael Santone, Associate Editor

Growing up as a woman of color in a new country with a culture that differs from your own can be a struggle on many levels.

But for Middle College High School senior Andrea Webb, these adversities of cliched stereotypes and childhood misunderstanding have propelled her forward to become an academic scholar and visionary.

Set to graduate from MCHS in June and to receive a liberal arts degree in math and science from Contra Costa College in May, she has participated in an illustrious list of extracurricular activities and positioned herself in the top 10 of her graduating class of 53 students.

Through consistent ambition, dedication and hours of application, Webb single-handedly got herself accepted to her dream educational institute, Amherst College in Massachusetts.

“I am fueled by the knowledge that I have no option but to succeed,” she said, “Every success I receive has to be earned.”

For Webb, this was a reality instilled and understood at a very young age.

She was born in Maiduguri, Nigeria, to intellectual parents whose desire for their daughter’s education was paramount.

In 2000, when she was one year old, Webb’s parents made the decision to move to the United States where the quality of public education was more stable.

“Both of my parents went to college,” she said, “My mother wanted my sister and I to receive a better education than she did.”

With a slight accent due to the Nigerian Pidgin dialect spoken at home, the benevolent and studious Webb began attending Collins Elementary School in Pinole.

It was there where she encountered teasing and racism by classmates because of her skin color and accent with the mixture of English and English Pidgin words she used.

“It was easy to be an outsider,” she said. “It made me really shy for the majority of my life.”

Worried that the clash of two distinct languages would be confusing, Webb’s parents decided to shield her from the Nigerian dialects she had grown to know.

“I was only spoken to in English and I wasn’t shown certain Nigerian things,” she said, “It became so hard to find value and pride in my culture.”

By the age of 9, Webb had practically read every book in the kid’s section at the Pinole Public Library.

But her true source of education and inspiration came from her father, who, with a Ph.D. in anthropology, introduced her to an array of scholastic material.

“I learned a lot of words and concepts from him,” she said. “I grew up wanting to be smarter than him.”

Webb, although soft spoken throughout most of her childhood, began to break out of her shell in high school.

Best friend and fellow classmate Malea Reeves, who is majoring in political law, said Webb has such high intellect and quick-wittedness that sometimes it’s hard to keep up with her.

“(Webb) is the kind of person that anyone could go to for help with any problem,” Reeves said, “She’s accepting of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Webb found a voice and passion in politics during her junior year while serving in California’s Youth and Government program as vice president and National Issues commission chairperson.

During her time as vice president, Webb helped write the delegation bill, which was to allow undocumented immigrants who pay taxes the right to vote.

“I know how terrifying it can be to be an immigrant, documented or not,” she said, “I want to be that outlet to help people.”

While commission chairperson, she wrote a proposal that would have the Department of Labor give bonuses to companies that hire disabled workers.

Being in a mostly male-dominated career field and looked down upon by her male peers only motivated Webb to achieve more.

“I realize that politics is still very much a man’s game,” she said. “I will just have to work twice as hard.”

As founder and president of the CCC Democratic Society, Webb brought together faculty and students in open discussions on the fading truths that surround the realities of what is going on with education, inequalities and minorities in the local West Contra Costa County communities.

Political science department Chairperson Vanna Gonzales said, “Webb is a born leader in the sense that she is assertive but not domineering.”

Gonzales said she was really a pleasure to have in class and very analytical, and that showed in the papers she wrote.

Webb also participated in the Black Student Union and Community Organizing and Political Action club on campus, was assistant stage manager for the CCC production of “Wonder of the World,” and was a certified African-American Student of Honor for the West Contra Costa Unified School District for three years.

CCC adjunct professor Tara Blau said during the drama department production she remembers Webb always having a smile on her face.

“She was great with the other students and with the adults, though she was one of the youngest ones there.”

Come this fall, Webb will be across the country majoring in political science and film and media studies at the private liberal arts college, Amherst.

“This is my dream school and I decided on it a long time ago,” she said. “To think that I got accepted to it all by myself is surreal.” She has also been awarded an academic scholarship.

Webb is looking forward to college life, but will continue raising the issues that fuel her passion.

She wants to contribute and help maintain the authenticity of news, especially with its current state.

As a woman leading the charge, Webb sees her future filled with obstacles, but that’s typical of those like her who shape the world through change.