ACT Scholar: Omolola Ahnaman

In celebration of a decade of the ACT Scholar program, we are highlighting our ACT Scholars and their education journey. Read more about the program and Scholar stories here.

What was your motivation for going to college and earning a degree?

I grew up in a low-income family and my mom raised four kids as a single parent. Initially I wanted to go to college and get a degree to improve my future by becoming an English teacher and eventually a professor. I was the first of my siblings and cousins to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

What are you currently studying? What degree will you earn? 

I am currently a Ph.D. candidate in Schools, Culture, & Society at the University of Iowa, and my focus is the Sociology of Education and Diversity & Equity. My degree will be a doctorate in Education Policy & Leadership Studies.

Who inspired or supported you in your college-going journey?

My aunt Connie definitely inspired me to go to college as a child. She was my only aunt that attend a university. Sadly, on the journey in undergrad, I did not really feel supported– I felt isolated and alone, but I still reached my goal.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a first-generation college student?

Finances were a large challenge. I sometimes had my school covered, but no money for my own personal needs.

What advice would you give to a first-generation college student today? 

Seek advice and help when you need it, and even when you don’t. Finishing your degree isn’t something you have to do alone. There are people on campus to assist you and help you navigate through completion. If you don’t feel supported after seeking help, it may be time to transfer to a different school. Maybe one that’s in state with a TRIO program, specifically tailored to work with first-generation students.

What goals have you set for yourself? 

Well, I would say outside of graduating and being a great wife and mom, my goals are to become a New York Times bestselling author for my children’s books and non-fiction books. Additionally, I want to develop a nonprofit program to empower youth. Oh, and also build a real estate empire!

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’d like to share that every student has a unique journey in education. Everyone wants to go the four-year route, but it isn’t “one size fits all”. I started at a community college in my hometown and now I am an ACT Scholar, receiving a full-ride scholarship from ACT, and finishing my doctorate. Some people may doubt you, but do not allow that to influence your path. You can define your own version of what it means to be successful! Any degree that allows you to work and follow your passion is great–don’t be pressured to attend a four-year college, if it’s not what you desire.

Watch our Celebrating ACT Scholars webinar, celebrating a decade of student impact here.

Omolola Ahnaman is currently a Ph.D. candidate and ACT Scholar at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Illinois State University. She is a wife and mother of two tiny diamonds, a.k.a her two- and three-and-a-half-year-old kids. And yes, it is possible to have kids while in graduate school.