LOS ANGELES — For years, Tamika Cornett dreamed of going to college, but being a mother came first. So when her daughter Alysia Nesmith enrolled at Cal State L.A., Cornett decided to make her academic dreams come true.
On Saturday, the mother and daughter will be graduating together during Cal State L.A.’s 68th Commencement.
Cornett will be receiving two bachelor’s degrees: one in business management and the other in computer information systems. Nesmith will receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
As Cornett walks across the stage at the University Athletics Stadium, it will be the culmination of a journey that began more than two decades ago.
“I was 17 when I gave birth to Alysia, and I raised her as a single mom,” she said. “I will always sacrifice myself for the success of my daughter.”
In 2010, Nesmith graduated from Los Altos High School and was accepted into Cal State L.A.’s psychology program.
“I felt that Cal State L.A.’s psychology degree program would teach me the skills to understand those I will come in contact with and to learn to maintain an open mind,” she said. “My interest is in the medical field, so I wanted to be well-rounded and prepared to communicate with the people in diverse populations.”
Nesmith encouraged her mother to come with her to Cal State L.A.
“I thought it would be cool to say my mom and I go to school together,” she said. “I believe I led her in the right direction.”
Cornett enrolled as an accounting major. She eventually transitioned into the business management program with a double major in computer information systems, which was more suited to her career background in operations management.
“It was a challenge trying to balance school, work and parenting without sacrificing one for the other,” said Cornett, who works as an office manager at a Hacienda Heights Baptist church. “But, I will always be a mother first.”
As a mother, she took pride in watching her daughter excel in her academics despite having to work several part-time jobs. Nesmith is a recipient of the William Hobson and Evelyn Troup Fund Scholarship. She is also co-authoring a research study in psychology with Cal State L.A. Professor Debra Garcia.
“My daughter would make any mom proud,” said Cornett, who also did well in the classroom. She was recently inducted into the Beta Gama Sigma International Honor Society.
For Nesmith, her mother’s presence helped motivate her.
“Having my mom alongside the journey spurred me on,” she said. “Now, I’m excited that we will be the firsts in our family to earn a college degree this June.”
After graduation, Nesmith hopes to find work as an emergency medical technician to build clinical hours, so she can apply for graduate school and study to become a physician’s assistant.
The pair will be marching together during the College of Natural and Social Sciences’ Commencement ceremony at Cal State L.A. at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.