Honoring Nontraditional Routes to Success

This fall, Ockemia Bean ’21—a mother, a first-generation college student, and a transfer student from Contra Costa College—was welcomed into the Cal community with open arms. Ockemia is majoring in interdisciplinary studies at UC Berkeley with an emphasis in work-life balance, as well as in ethical and transformational leadership. She is on a nontraditional route to success, one that has been full of twists full of twists and turns.

Ockemia is a recipient of both The Leadership Award (TLA) and The Achievement Award Program (TAAP) scholarship from the Cal Alumni Association (CAA). Upon hearing that she received two scholarships, Ockemia was initially incredulous, then began to feel pride in overcoming adversity. “The Alumni Scholars Program validated my journey and honored the nontraditional path that I am on by virtue of being a transfer student,” Ockemia reflects. “I made a sacrifice by leaving a job to become a full-time student, and I couldn’t be happier to be pursuing a higher education at Cal.

“Through the Alumni Scholars Program, I discovered the rally of people who, despite not knowing me personally and having never shaken hands with me, know that I have a unique story to tell. They’re advocates of my story. This alone is support enough.” For Ockemia and countless others, the Alumni Scholars Program shows solidarity with students who are vulnerable to hardships of nonconformity.

Having a support system mitigates the feeling of not belonging or the differences that can arise when students first come to Cal. CAA dissolved for Ockemia the impression that her struggles—be they financial, emotional, or psychological—are uniquely hers. “Alumni House quickly became a sacred, inclusive place for me. When I am there, I am connecting with people who have had similar experiences to me,” she says. “And having immediate access to a network of more than half a million alumni has been life-altering.”

Every week, Ockemia can be found in the Transfer Center at Contra Costa College, supporting students in aspirations of transferring to and attending UC Berkeley, the number one public university in the world. She is there, unfailingly, for students who need help choosing a major, navigating the UC application, distinguishing college advisors from major advisors, or applying for financial aid and finding scholarship opportunities. “It brings me much joy to provide moral support and encouragement to dynamic and motivated students intent on making their mark in the world by way of a top-tier education.”