Jessalyn Waldron, a fourth-year history student, takes the bus to school and also brings her bike. She bikes back home to be able to squeeze in some exercise.
When Waldron was 19 years old, she moved to LA to be an actress. Waldron recalls living in the kitchen of a two-bedroom apartment in order to afford rent. “It was tough and I was like, 'What the heck? Let’s try some classes and see what happens,'” Waldron said. After coming to UCLA, Waldron decided to pursue a history degree. “I really love being in school. I like history the way I liked acting because I am passionate about the storytelling,” Waldron said.
Waldron works at the Transfer Student Center and plays an active role in organizing events for the nontraditional student community. “My role is to try to pull that community together. It’s meant a lot for me and building my confidence and there are still so many nontrads we don’t know on campus,”’ Waldron said.
Waldron was recently elected to the Palms Neighborhood Council as a representative of her neighborhood for the Los Angeles City Council. “I’m really excited to represent my neighborhood and advocate for things we need,” Waldron says. “My role is to focus attention on smaller things that might get overlooked in the giant bureaucracy.”
Crystal Lipa is a fourth-year gender studies student. She sits with her Education 98 professor, Jeanie Pritzker, who teaches this class for students who are in the Bruin Guardian Scholars community. “This course is an extension of educational stealth studies, where students have the opportunity to do things like build a resume, participate in mock interviews and budget finances,’’ Lipa said.
By the time she returned to school, Lipa had four children and years of work experience as a paralegal and teaching assistant. In the mock interview for her Education 98 class, Lipa discussed her struggle with self-esteem stemming from institutional stigmas against hiring single parents.
Lonnell Edwards, a fourth-year sociology student, attended high school in Georgia and went straight into the military after he graduated. ''Where I’m from, there’s nothing to do. I didn’t want to be stuck,'' Edwards said. ''I went into the military, I was able to travel and I saw the world. And then I realized there was more to life than following orders,'' Edwards said.
Edwards said that he wants to be a role model for his nephews and nieces. ''Growing up, I didn’t have anyone to talk to me about college. I knew two people who went to college,'' Edwards said. Edwards works at the Center for Community College Partnerships as a peer mentor for community college students that are hoping to attend four-year institutions. ''I’m able to take everything I learned and didn’t learn and pass it on to my students so they’re ahead of the game,'' Edwards said.
Edwards considered pursuing a degree in kinesiology and eventually wanted to coach football at the high school level. But, after Edwards took a sociology course, he realized he loves the subject and wants to further his studies in the field, while keeping coaching as a hobby.
Edwards was accepted to UC Berkeley’s master’s program in education with an emphasis on cultural studies in sport and education. ''I played football, tennis and wrestled in high school, and I could combine my two passions,'' Edwards said. ''I wanted to focus on what happens to the people that don’t get the scholarships and don’t get the grades. We have to fix that,'' Edwards said.
After studying theater at Los Angeles Southwest College, Eliza Franklin-Edmondson transferred to UCLA to study African American studies. She said she’s proud to be a transfer and nontraditional student, but recognizes that it’s been difficult for her. “There’s a sort of stigma around being a transfer student: that you’re not as smart as the people who come here for all four years. But if you come from a socioeconomically stressed background, it only makes sense to go to a community college,” said Franklin-Edmondson.
Franklin-Edmondson spends her extra time on campus working and studying. As a mother of four, that extra time is limited.
Alongside her African American studies degree, Franklin-Edmondson will be graduating with a minor in visual and performing arts education. With her theater background, she hopes to one day use the arts to educate and heal.
Reyna Coronado decided to come back to school to pursue a degree in history at UCLA. She says that when her son asked her what college she went to and she didn’t have an answer, he was shocked. “And just his reaction alone made me think, ‘OK, I gotta go back,’” Coronado said.
Coronado said she appreciates her education much more now than she did in her past. “I kind of felt like I didn’t have a purpose right out of high school. When I decided to go back, failure wasn’t an option. I’ve always felt included with my professors. The young students have accepted me as a regular student, and I don’t take it for granted,” she said. While Coronado had always imagined that she would study kinesiology when she came back to school, she changed her career plans after encountering a history class at a community college. “It was the professor that changed my entire direction,” she said.
“There are times where I feel like, as a parent, I’ve neglected my family, but I have to continue to tell myself that it’s a temporary sacrifice. I mean, I’m doing it for my family,” Coronado said. Coronado says many people ask how she is able to maintain a balance between work and home life. “It’s like any other working woman who has a family. You find a way to make it work,” she said.
Coronado is applying to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in education. “I enjoy being around younger kids. It’s so rewarding when they achieve something because they are so happy to share it with you,” she said. “I’m nervous to teach, but I want to inspire younger students who feel like college isn’t an option for them. I wouldn’t have applied here if I didn’t think I would be able to do it,” Coronado said.