Title: Communications Officer for the U.S. Marine Corps, Quantico, Virginia; active duty; rank: captain
Family: Brea (wife), Brilee (12), Jacob (8) and Eniola (3)
Olaolu Ogunyemi was not always the strong and confident leader he is today. This first-generation American of Nigerian heritage had to learn how to be comfortable in his skin when other children did not understand his culture or how to pronounce his name.
He drew strength from his parents, especially his father—who arrived in Alabama during the 1970s—and later moved with his family to Louisiana.
“Some of the big things that my dad always tried to stress to (my siblings and me) was we need to always work hard,” he says. “There’s a time for work, and a there’s time for play.”
Education and family were also important—“knowing that no matter what happens, you always should be there for your family.”
These three tenets would shape Ogunyemi as an author, Marine and teen mentor.
His newest book, “Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine,” which addresses bullying and self-worth, published last month. Look for his other books at parent-child-connect.com.
How do you balance parenthood with your career?
I think one thing I like to say is I view time as one of our most precious nonrenewable resources. I have to make every minute count. When I’m at work, I make those minutes count. When I’m at home, I make those minutes count. (It’s) making sure that we’re able to—when we’re spending time together—I’m actually present and I’m not bringing work issues into the home.
How have your experiences as a Marine, an author and a mentor influenced you as a parent?
I believe that some of the things that we learned in the Marine Corps such as investing time with people—we always talk about being a “people-first” organization and ensuring that you have the loyalty and ability to understand what your Marines are going through—helped me as a teen mentor and with raising children. Just a simple fact that we have to get to understand what (kids) are going through before we can lead them anywhere. Understand it and be empathetic toward them. Understand that they’re all different and we have to lead them accordingly.
What can you share about your new book?
My new book is all about self-worth and understanding the value that you bring to the people around you. In the book, you have a character who is faced with bullying, and he has to learn how to overcome that adversity to truly understand the value that he provides—not only to his family but to everybody. That included the bully.
Your books are about fostering family connections. In what ways can parents and children connect through these narratives?
The first thing is sitting down with the child. Reading is the most important thing that we can do—just to have that conversation with them. In all three books, I put resources in the back—specifically for the older (children). They’re called Continue the Conversation courses that allow parents to continue the narrative and continue the topics in both books, and they can get to understand the child’s perspective and what the child is comprehending from the book. They can tailor that and make it a teachable moment between them and the child.
What’s the one thing you hope your children learn from you and your career?
You can do whatever you put your mind to, and you have the power to choose your destiny. My career has been nothing short of phenomenal because I’ve been blessed with great opportunities by people who actually looked out for me. It’s been a wonderful chance to both lead Marines professionally in the Marine Corps, and when I decided to finally publish my first book, it’s a great experience to grow in that aspect and continue to push forward with providing other parents the resources they need to connect with their children.
Family Meal: Tacooooo Tuesday!
Inspirational Quote: “Only one can determine my future. That one is me!” | “Crow From the Shadow” by Olaolu Ogunyemi
Piece of Advice: Show kindness and respect to everyone you meet.
Book to Read Together: Other than my own books, we love reading the “Dog Man” novel series.