What’s Going on: Mr. Ongwela


Aidan London, High Happenings Editor

People struggle with the fact that such a beloved man is now gone. Everyone knows about the absence of Mr. Chandler this year. When a community loses such a prominent and well respected figure, all heads turn to who will be replacing them. With Chandler leaving such big shoes to fill behind, a new man emerges. This man, is Mr. Ongwela. Most people are hesitant at first to accept that we are in a new era and that Mr. Ongwela is the disciplinarian at this school now. Right now, people are generally confused about who is calling the shots. The yearning for something that is now gone is difficult to cope with. But, after my ten minutes with our new Assistant Principal of Student Affairs, I can assure all Cub faithful, that this school is in good hands. One chapter may have come to an end, but a wonderful chapter is blossoming. 

Mr. Ongwela has been quite busy in his new role, meaning it was difficult to find time to get an interview with him. After a few weeks, we nailed down a time and I was able to find him. I found him, not surprisingly, doing his job well. He was patrolling the lunch room making sure shirts were tucked in and headphones were removed. After stepping to the side to sit down, our interview began. 


Question One: How do you define yourself?

“I think the number one thing I use to define myself is that I am the child of immigrants, the son of Thomas and Fresca. My family came here in 1978 so that my father could finish his education at the University of Michigan. After concluding his education we migrated to the west side of the state more specifically Kalamazoo, where my father was a professor. Coming from immigrants has given me the perspective that I have to help as many people as I possibly can.”


Question Two: Where did you grow up?

“Kalamazoo, Michigan! Most of my life was spent in Kalamazoo, Michigan. My father jumped around universities, teaching at Western Michigan, Kalamazoo College, and Andrews University, a small liberal arts school. Growing up there had an impact on me, I went to a now small then big Catholic school named St. Augustine Cathedral. I cannot explain how much of an impact it had on me growing up, for me English was a second language, I had teachers help me learn the language, I had teachers teach me basketball, I had teachers help me to understand my faith, all of these things formed me into becoming a, sorry for the cliché, man for others. Having such influences helped guide me into education and where I am today.”


Question Three: What is a short term goal for yourself?

“Everyday I try to wake up and be of service to whoever I come in contact with. When I wake up, I say I am going to do whatever I can to help people. It is short term enough that every day I can think about it and I always reflect on who I helped and how I can improve for the next day. It has been a goal of mine every day since I’ve started working in schools.”


Question Four: What is your favorite sport to watch?

“English Premier Soccer. Something you’ll learn about me is that I tend to cheer for losing teams, be it the Lions in American football or Chelsea as my favorite club in EPS. My favorite players would have to be Kante, but the whole team is incredibly likable. I’ve always rooted for them as they’re based in West London and that is where my dad used to live and study.”


Question Five: What is your favorite color?

“I would have to say green.”


Question Six: What are your long term goals or goals for your legacy at UDJ?

“I came from a REALLY old Jesuit school, I think it is very important to have the perspective to get students to buy into new ideas and programs. I am always committed to new ideas and new programs, with students buying in along the way. I want to be remembered as the VP who got people bought in. This school is almost 150 years old and it has storied programs. I want to set up ideas and programs that’ll last for another 150 years and to be remembered as the guy who got said programs in place.”


Question Seven: What will be the Lions record this year?

“ I was actually just talking to my brother about this, I said 7-10, which I think is quite hopeful. I do my best to be optimistic.”


Question Eight: Favorite musical bands or artists?


“Oh goodness gracious to many! I don’t know if this will make any sense to you guys but, like 50 cent was huge, G-Unit was a big deal, Blink-182 was a massive band, but growing up those were the biggest artists when I was in high school and whenever they come on the radio I am reminded of high school.”


Question Nine: What does it mean to be at a Jesuit school to you?


“Being that I come from a really big Jesuit school in Chicago, the biggest thing that I bought into was that every single day, our mission was to form men and at my old school women for others. It may sound cliche and corny but I have seen it change people’s lives, I’ve seen it change students’ lives as well as faculty lives. This is the third Jesuit school I have worked at and everywhere I go every community talks about very openly how the Jesuit experience has changed them. It means so much to me that I get to work back in my home state. I graduated college during the Great Recession, so it was super hard to find a job in Michigan as it was one of the most affected states due to the car industry, so I have worked around the Midwest, I’ve worked in Chicago, I’ve worked in Indiana, I’ve worked in Ohio, but finally I get to come home to the crown jewel, the best Jesuit school in my home state. So I am doing all I can to meet and help new people, build new programs that will endure my legacy.”

Question Ten: Do you have anything to say to any readers or students as a whole?

“I just want to say I am super excited to be here, to be a part of U of D, I am super excited to be a part of the mission of the school, I am grateful to all the students in all their invitations whether it be to come to football games, to be in their classrooms with them, and I hope in some way shape or form I get to meet everyone in some minor way. It may not be I know what your full name is or what your schedule is but I hope to have some kind of contact with each other at this school.”


After the interview Mr. O went back to doing what he does best, helping other people. While at times it may seem like nagging or frustrating how he reminds you to tuck your shirt in, Mr. O cares deeply about you and our great school. I strongly suggest that next time you see Mr. O you ask him about the Lions, ask him if Chelsea has a new manager, invite him to your events, and try to start a conversation with him. Through interviewing Mr. O, I have learned he is a warm and deeply compassionate person who will stop at nothing to make sure our school is running at peak performance. But that is Mr. Ongwela, a man committed to forming men for others.