Rhonda E. Davis is a remarkable woman who has achieved an extraordinary feat. She is a 60-year-old grandmother who has recently graduated from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in African American studies. She was not only the oldest graduate in her class, but also the overall best student, earning a 4.0 GPA and receiving the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research.
How did she do it? It all started when she applied for the Rhoda Davis-Blatt Scholarship, a prestigious scholarship that is awarded to undergraduate students who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership potential, and commitment to community service. The scholarship is named after Rhoda Davis-Blatt, a former administrative coordinator for the Munroe-Meyer Institute, who worked for nearly 30 years to support children with disabilities and their families.
Rhonda was one of the recipients of the scholarship, which covered her tuition and fees for four years at UC Davis. She said that the scholarship was a “blessing” and a “dream come true” for her, as she had always wanted to pursue higher education but faced many challenges and obstacles along the way.
Rhonda grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Los Angeles, where she witnessed violence, poverty, and racism. She dropped out of high school at 16 and got married at 18. She had three children by the time she was 21, and later became a single mother. She worked as a nurse assistant, a security guard, and a bus driver to support her family. She also suffered from health problems, including diabetes, hypertension, and kidney failure.
Despite these hardships, Rhonda never gave up on her passion for learning. She earned her GED at 25 and enrolled in community college at 40. She took online courses and night classes while working full-time and raising her grandchildren. She transferred to UC Davis at 56, after being accepted to several other universities.
At UC Davis, Rhonda immersed herself in academic and extracurricular activities. She conducted research on the impact of mass incarceration on African American families, under the mentorship of Professor Bruce Haynes. She presented her findings at several conferences and published a paper in an academic journal. She also participated in student organizations, such as the Black Student Union, the Sociology Club, and the African American Faculty and Staff Association. She volunteered at local schools, churches, and shelters. She mentored younger students and inspired them with her story.
Rhonda said that her experience at UC Davis was “amazing” and “transformative”. She said that she learned a lot from her professors and peers, who treated her with respect and admiration. She said that she felt like she belonged to a “family” at UC Davis, where she found support, encouragement, and friendship.
Rhonda graduated from UC Davis in June 2023, with honors and accolades. She received a standing ovation from the audience at the commencement ceremony, where she delivered a speech as the student speaker. She thanked God, her family, her friends, her mentors, and her scholarship donors for making her journey possible. She said that she hoped to use her education to make a positive difference in the world.
Rhonda’s story is an inspiring example of perseverance, resilience, and excellence. She proves that age is no barrier to achieving one’s dreams and goals. She shows that education is a powerful tool for personal growth and social change. She demonstrates that anyone can overcome adversity and succeed with determination, hard work, and faith.
Rhonda plans to continue her education and pursue a master’s degree in social work. She also wants to write a book about her life story. She said that she wants to share her message of hope and empowerment with others who may face similar challenges or doubts.
She said: “I want to tell them that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. You have to believe in yourself and never give up. You have to find your purpose and passion in life. You have to be grateful for every opportunity and every blessing. You have to give back to your community and help others who need it. You have to live your life with joy and love.”
: UNO students receive Rhonda Davis-Blatt scholarships | Newsroom | University of Nebraska Medical Center
: Davis RE (2022) The collateral consequences of mass incarceration on African American families: A case study of Sacramento County. Journal of African American Studies 26(3): 345-362.