Evangeline Ebeyer ’19 knew since she was a little girl that she was expected to work hard. Her mother immigrated to the United States from Indonesia and became a computer programmer at the University of California Office of the President. Her father is a Marine veteran. Her maternal grandfather held a doctorate degree in mathematics.
“I couldn’t just go home and complain to my parents, ‘It’s too hard.’ They’re old school. I knew I had to go to college, but I also knew they wouldn’t pay for it,” she explains. “Plus, as the oldest of five [kids], I have to also serve as an example for my siblings.”
Evangeline grew up in Richmond, California, barely a stone’s throw from the UC Berkeley campus. Her life at home was unstable; her father’s alcoholism meant she didn’t always know “what [she] was going to walk into” when she came home. Everything she did growing up—from being homeschooled through high school to working 30 hours a week at Peet’s Coffee and Tea—she chose specifically for how it would help lead her to Cal. One question, however, always existed: “How am I going to afford this?”
Then, Evangeline’s brother abruptly passed away during her senior year of high school. “It was like nothing mattered anymore after that,” she remembers. “How could I just keep working after that?”
“But then I realized, I can’t just stop. I have people—my community, my work, my siblings—who rely on me. I have to open Peet’s in the morning, I have to support my family. I held onto my own goals and pushed through.”
“If there’s even just one person who hears my story and feels like their journey is made a little more possible because of that, I’ll be happy.”
After high school, Evangeline began her bachelor’s degree at Diablo Valley College. She continued to balance her responsibilities as a student and as an employee at Peet’s, where she was promoted to shift lead and took on additional hours to help pay for her degree. Every step of the way, Cal was still her goal.
In August 2017, Evangeline finally made it to Cal as a transfer student. Even then, on the cusp of becoming a UC Berkeley student, Evangeline still didn’t know how she would manage to pay tuition. “But it would have been so defeating if I had worked so hard to get to Cal, and then when I finally got there, I couldn’t afford it.”
This was where the Cal Alumni Association’s Leadership Award came in. “The award helped make the finances more manageable, and it was also so validating to have a third party—not my family or my friends—give me this award that recognized my hard work and my leadership in my community,” Evangeline says.
“In the transfer student community [at Cal], so many students experience impostor syndrome, because you’re suddenly surrounded by students who’ve been there since day one as freshmen. You start wondering, ‘Do I even belong here?’”
For Evangeline, the new challenges pushed her to work even harder. She continued as a shift lead and manager at Peet’s on top of an internship at the UC Berkeley Transfer Student Center and an additional job at Hearst Gymnasium on campus. She also became a study-abroad ambassador after her own semester in Rome, Barcelona, and London. Now, every time Evangeline’s confidence wavers, she remembers, “Someone else has validated me. This award reminds me that my hard work is being recognized.”
As she finishes her final semester at Berkeley, Evangeline is eager to see what her future holds. “I’m going to continue working at Peet’s as a shift lead,” she says. “I’ll have worked at Peet’s for six years by then, so it’ll be easy for me to take some time off to travel. I want to go to Milan and Switzerland.”
When she gets home, though, she’s set her sights on being an academic counselor. “I want to support transfer students in their transitions out of community college and focus on student wellness and mental health. Because I’ve gone through this process myself, I hope that I can share my story with other students. If there’s even just one person who hears my story and feels like their journey is made a little more possible because of that, I’ll be happy.”