Vt. Law School Student To Be on ‘Millionaire’


People / Oct. 30, 2008 12:00am EDT

By M. D. Drysdale


Vt. Law School Student To Be on ‘Millionaire’ By M. D. Drysdale


Ugonma Achebe, a 25-year-old student at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, will take the quiz show questions from host Meredith Vieira on Thursday, Oct. 30 and Friday Oct. 31.

A second-year student at Vermont Law School will be in the "hot seat" on "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" today and tomorrow.

Ugonma Achebe, a 25-year-old law student, will take the quiz show questions from host Meredith Vieira on Thursday, Oct. 30 and Friday Oct. 31. She will be on two shows because time ran out during her segment, so she continues her appearance the next day.

Locally, "Millionaire" can be seen on WVNY (ABC), weekdays at 5:30 p.m.

Achebe is a second-year law student at VLS. Originally from Nigeria, she came to the United States when she was eight years old. Her grand-uncle is the novelest Chinua Achebe, author of "Things Fall Apart," the most widely-read book in modern African literature.

She said if she won big on "Millionaire," she would pay off her school loans and fix the broken alternator on her car. It is possible to win $1 million on the program—but most people win between $1000 and $25,000.

Achebe brought her mother, Joy, who is a nurse, with her to New York City as her on-air companion for the show, which has already been taped.

In a telephone interview with The Herald yesterday, Achebe said the whole taping experience, while intense, was a lot of fun and the people taping the show were as nice as they could be. "Meredith is a breath of fresh air," she said. "Off camera, she just made you feel comfortable."

On-camera, she said, she was pleased not to have an attack of nerves.

Since leaving East Nigeria with her parents and three sisters in 1991, Achebe has lived in New Jersey, graduating from Rutgers University and working two years before deciding on law school.

She heard about Vermont Law School from a friend, she said, and was captivated by the school’s slogan: "Law for the Community, Law for the World."

"That’s exactly what I was looking for," she told The Herald. The law should be about caring for what happens in the world."

She never visited the campus before she arrived to begin her first year, and she admitted that the rural nature of Vermont and South Royalton came as a shock.

"It was very interesting. I did not know what I was getting into," she said with a jolly laugh. "As soon as I crossed the state line, I said ‘Wow, this is different!’

"When I got to South Royalton, I said, ‘Wow, these guys don’t have street lights!’"

But living here has been a "really good experience," she said, marveling that "everybody seems to know your name. It’s a beautiful state."

And VLS has totally lived up to its promise, she added.

Auditioned in 2006

She got the idea of auditioning for "Millionaire" while working in New York in 2006, and applied on-line. Eventually she was called for an audition with about 50 others.

First came a 10-minute written test on trivia and current events, and then came an interview and on-camera test to see "how TV-ready you are," she explained.

Achebe was told she was placed "in the pool" but heard nothing else. She went to Barnes & Noble and stocked up on almanacs to study. The summer ended, and she drove to Vermont to attend VLS.

On the very first day of classes, she received a call from "Millionaire."

"What are you doing next week?"

That call led to the taping at the studio, which in turn will result on her appearance on a lot of Vermont TV screens this Thursday and Friday. Her fellow law students will be watching, she knows. As soon as her appearance was announced, her in-box was "flooded with congratulations."

It’s the seventh season of the current version of "Millionaire," with Vieira as host. The earlier primetime version, with Regis Philbin as host, began running in 1999.

According to the studio, this year’s quiz show has several rule changes, including a timing feature. A new "lifeline" has been added via a live face-to-face Skype video call, which for Achebe’s appearances will feature "Bill Nye the Science Guy" as the expert.

Also, a "double dip lifeline" replaces the "50-50" lifeline, allowing contestants to take two guesses on one question.

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