Making the Call to Give Back John Adekola ’24 sees his role with Phonathon as a chance to make a difference at W&L.
Many students would find the thought of cold calling anyone intimidating, much less a call that includes asking for money. But one of the draws of Phonathon for John Adekola ’24 is precisely that intimidation factor —or more specifically, his work to conquer it.
Adekola moved to Chicago from Nigeria with his family in 2014, and English is not his first language.
“Phonathon is a chance for me to improve my communication skills and get more comfortable talking with successful people. It’s challenging for me,” he said. “I have had to adjust to the cultural shift from Nigeria to the United States, and Phonathon is helping to build my confidence.”
Challenge has not been the only reward. Adekola has found joy through his job with Phonathon, and according to his manager, Assistant Director of Annual Giving Abby Gilbert, he has quite the talent for connecting with people.
“He is an exceptional caller and has some of the best, most in-depth conversations of anyone on the team,” Gilbert said.
“Phonathon is a way for me to give back to W&L now; the school has opened new doors for me, and to know I am making a difference here feels great.”
~John Adekola ’24
Last term, Adekola encouraged a number of alumni who were on the fence to make a gift this year. “I have had great conversations with parents and alumni, from discussing the mortgage crisis with a commercial banker to connecting with a lobbyist who was interested in supporting Washington Term,” he said.
Phonathon isn’t just about dollars and cents; it bridges the W&L community, allowing parents, alumni and current undergraduate and law students to share their experiences with one another. And Adekola has a lot to share. An accounting and computer science double-major with a minor in Chinese, Adekola is a member of the Student Association for International Learning (SAIL) and offers W&L’s Center for International Education a student perspective on study abroad and international program policies. He is also a member of the African Society and, in addition to his Phonathon job, he worked as a research assistant for Assistant Professor of Sociology Lynn Chin last term.
Adekola is also the Lawson Family Scholarship recipient and had the opportunity to meet donors Wende and Jim Lawson ’77 and their son James ’21 last year. Last summer, Lawson gave Adekola a tour of his global investment banking firm Lincoln International.
“I want to get into investment banking, so it was a great opportunity to visit and find out more about his company,” Adekola said.
Drawing from his many experiences at W&L so far, and the fact that he learned about the school from his high school English teacher, whose husband was an alumnus, Adekola has an uncanny ability to draw people into a range of interesting conversations and encourage their support.
“Phonathon is a way for me to give back to W&L now; the school has opened new doors for me, and to know I am making a difference here feels great,” he said. “The alumni are like me, in that sense. W&L gave them so much, and now that they are able to, they are giving back, and some have been giving back for the past 30 or even 50 years.”
When a member of the W&L community picks up the phone, so much more can happen than a simple transaction.
“W&L alumni truly want the students to succeed — I can feel that — and it is inspiring,” Adekola said. “That encouragement helps me believe in myself.”