Buku Ibraheem.

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If you didn’t know her name before, you definitely won’t forget it now.


23-year-old Buku Ibraheem is on a purpose driven mission to encourage young adults to pursue their true passions in life. In an age where we are fueled by hollow Twitter motivation and Instagram #goals, Buku has put her money where her mouth is by creating the My Passion, My Life scholarship.


This week we’re taking it to the west coast where Buku let’s me in on how she came up with the idea for the scholarship, how she stays motivated and how she plans on changing the world.

Saturday School: What made you want to start the My Passion, My Life scholarship?

Buku Ibraheem: My junior year of college I interned at Disney ABC television group and my co-worker, who interned with me, was from Texas. In order to make the move, she had to take out a loan on top of her school loans because the company did not assist with her relocation costs. This was a young lady who believed that this internship opportunity would advance her career, so she was willing to make that financial sacrifice. Now this is just one of the many stories of young professionals who have had to deal with the burden of internship relocation. I've met countless students who have had to make sacrifices when it comes to internships, either by taking out loans to afford relocation or simply turning down the offer because the move is too costly. So, last October, God inspired me to give back by creating the “My Passion, My Life” scholarship to help someone in need turn their passion into a life.


SS: What was your brainstorming process like when coming up with how the scholarship would be organized?

BI: Well first I consulted God, this was His idea that He planted in my heart, so I would be remiss if I didn’t ask Him for the strategy. After I did that, everything started falling together seamlessly. I solidified the purpose, how much the award would be, what the application would be like, who would sit on my board, etc. But everything started from God and then it trickled down from there.


SS: That’s amazing. How long did it take you to organize everything?

BI: It took about 4 months to organize everything. I started planning in October and opened the scholarship application in February.


SS: The fact that it only took you 4 months is crazy. I definitely thought it would take you longer. How did you advertise and did you target specific colleges?

BI: I created a video to announce the scholarship and digital flyers. A lot of the advertising came from self-promotion via my personal social media accounts and website. I’m very thankful for my friends because they went above and beyond to support me on their personal accounts as well. Also, Rhonesha Byng, founder of HerAgenda, shared the scholarship on the brand’s social media, which generated a great deal of buzz. So I’m super thankful for her help!

I did target specific colleges. Miami University, my alma mater, was definitely a priority for me, so I made sure to reach out to them first. From there I targeted specific colleges in every region (west coast, east coast, south, and midwest) that had a good representation of diversity on their campuses. After, I received over 100 applications.

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SS: Where and how did you get funding for the scholarship?

BI: I funded the scholarship through the Bank of Buku, in other words it came out of my own pocket.


SS: I know most scholarships are pretty competitive, what requirements do people have to meet to apply? And how did you determine a winner?

BI: Each applicant must either be a current undergraduate student, graduate student, or recent graduate who graduated in the last year. They must have accepted a full time summer internship before applying. They must live in the United States. There was no GPA requirement because I believe if you’re in school, you have an internship, and you’re pursuing your passion, you’re already more than qualified.

Determining a winner was the hardest part, thankfully I had a board of directors who helped narrow it down. Applicants were evaluated on level of need and 60 seconds video submission asking, “how will this internship help you turn your passion into a life?”


SS: I like that your scholarship is purpose driven, ultimately, what do you want the winners from the scholarship to gain mentally and physically?

BI: Physically, you can. Mentally, you will.


SS: Since winning, what is the current scholarship recipient up to? Do you keep in touch with them?

BI: Kailyn is back at school finishing up her senior year at the University of Georgia and looking for full time positions. And yes, I definitely keep in touch with her. We actually spoke on the phone last week.

SS: Was there ever a point during this project that you felt discouraged? If so, how did you stay motivated to keep going?

BI: There were several moments where I felt discouraged, but the main thing that kept me going was my faith. I knew this was what God had called me to do and I believe that God will not give you a dream that heaven hasn’t backed up and His grace cannot sustain. So that alone gave me hope. My family and friends also played a huge role in keeping me encouraged and inspired, I definitely wouldn’t have pulled through without them. Lastly, me. I had to keep myself motivated. I had to remind myself of my purpose, I am turning my passion into a life to inspire others to do the same. I want people to look at what I’ve accomplished and say “Because of Buku I can...” I had to remind myself that this has less to do with me and more to do with the lives i’m going to touch and the people I’m going to inspire because of this. I want people to see what I did with this scholarship, so they’ll be motivated to bring their ideas to life as well.


SS: What is your ultimate end goal with the scholarship?  

BI: I’m trying to accomplish several goals with this scholarship, but one of the main goals is to simply support the dreams of others. There have been numerous people in my life who have served as building blocks for my dreams and because of that, I want to be a building block for someone else’s.


SS: You seem to really have a passion for motivating the people around you and helping them achieve their goals, who is that person for you and how have they helped you?

BI: That “person” is black people, young black people who are relentlessly pursuing their passion and creating more seats at the table for others. Those are the people who motivate me and encourage me to continue to achieve my goals. So, if that’s you, thank you!

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SS: How has your full-time job helped or hindered your passion?

BI: I work at adidas as a project manager for special collaborations. My job has actually fueled my passion. My role has helped me couple my creativity with strategy, something I wasn’t as skilled at before. It’s one thing to have a brilliant idea, it’s another thing to build an effective game plan to execute it. I take pride in being a sponge at work and absorbing everything, then applying my learnings as I see fit. The work I do now is very different from the work I’ve done before, and because of that I have been forced to be a student again. But there’s so much value in being a student in the workplace, because you’re in a constant state of growth. I also have the luxury of being surrounded by creatives with amazing talents. The other day I needed someone to help me with a logo and my co-worker connected me with another co-worker who is a designer and now he’s helping me. I say all this to say, you can either make your 9-5 work against you or for you. It’s all about how you approach it.

SS: I feel like you’re a motivational speaker in the making [laughs], what advice would you give to aspiring creators?

BI: Don’t doubt the idea(s) that God has blessed you with. Even when everything in your life is telling you no, remind yourself that this passion didn’t come from anywhere because it’s heaven sent. You are God’s plan A. He doesn’t have a plan B when it comes to you because He knows that you have everything you need to accomplish your goals. So even when you don’t feel qualified, know that you already have what it takes to exceed expectations. Pursue what’s been placed on your heart, be relentless about it, but also being patient with it. Remember that delay is not denial and rejection is simply redirection for something better. You’re going to make it, see you at the top.

SS: Lastly, If you could go back, what advice would you give to high school you?

BI: High school me was pretty insecure, so I would tell her to love herself more and take herself more seriously because she is beautiful and has a purpose that is beyond her imagination.

You can learn more about the scholarship here, and to learn more about Buku follow her on Instagram @ByBuku.

Words by Morgan Peterson