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The Long and Winding Road

Sunday, June 14, 2015 - 11:54

Khadija and daughters.JPG

khadijah clark

Khadijah Clark (center) with her daughters Betyel Kahsai (left), a student at Emerson College in Boston, and Nate-Eya Kahsai, a UCLA alumna

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Sonia Fernandez

After joining UCSB’s Office of Admissions a decade or so ago and reviewing the transcripts of thousands of potential UCSB students, it didn’t take long for Khadijah Clark to realize she wanted to be one of them. If they could do it, the administrative assistant thought to herself, so could she.

And so it was that nearly 10 years later, Clark’s daughters looked on joyfully as their mother crossed the commencement stage, shook hands with Chancellor Henry T. Yang, and received her bachelor’s degree in sociology.

“It was a long haul but I got through it,” recalled Clark, who worked full time while completing her degree. “It was a huge sacrifice because I didn’t really spend time with my family and friends. But it was worth it.”

Clark noted that she was more than a little nervous when she took the first step of her academic journey — enrolling in an English course at Santa Barbara City College. “Of course, I was really scared going to class because I felt like I was too old,” she said.

But Clark persevered. The following semester, she signed up for another course, and again the semester after that. She kept at it for seven years, continuing on her own even after a coworker who had been taking SBCC classes at the same time dropped out. It was a difficult time, Clark acknowledged, but she kept her sights fixed on her goal of, at the very least, completing her two-year degree. “I knew if I stopped, I would never go back,” she said.

After transferring to UCSB in 2012, this year she became one of the university’s newest alumni.

Clark said the most important lesson she learned from her post-secondary education is to have high expectations for herself. “Now I can do what I thought I couldn’t do,” she said. “If I hear that I can’t do something, then my mind automatically goes, yes, you can do it. I didn’t think that way 10 years ago because I was afraid — afraid of a challenge. But now I know that if I can do this, I can do anything.”

Though Clark plans to go on to graduate school, she will first take a year off to savor the fruits of her labor. “I just love learning and being in the classroom around other students and discussing interesting topics related to my major,” she said. “But for now I want to relax and spend time with my family and friends.”

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commencement 2015Khadijah Clark