On the heels of Mother’s Day, we are spotlighting the mothers, such as Dia James, who juggle the demands of academia while parenting. These incredible student parents take on lectures, exams, and work all while raising their children. Their journeys are marked by sacrifice, perseverance, love, dedication, and a drive to create a better future. 

Join us as we get to know Dia James, an incredible student parent, her challenges, motivation, and the impact motherhood has on her student experience. We are honored to celebrate Dia and all mothers. It is our hope that by showcasing their experiences, we can help forge a future in which parenting students are fully supported on campus and off. 

Please tell us about yourself.

I am pursuing a major in psychology with a focus on communication, social and behavioral sciences, and STEM at Los Angeles Pierce College. My brother’s battle with schizophrenia served as the inspiration for my journey into this field. Our experience has not only shaped my academic pursuits, but also it has instilled in me a sense of empathy and determination. 

I’m also a parent to an incredible 11-year-old son, Dichar James, who has special needs. Balancing academics and motherhood is a journey that has taught me a great deal about resilience and compassion. 

What is this graduation going to look like for you and your family? 

Graduation signifies a remarkable turnaround: It makes me feel unstoppable. My academic journey began at Pierce College as I was residing in a shelter. Overcoming obstacles I once thought unsurmountable, I am about to graduate and am ready to transition to a four-year university of my choosing, an achievement adorned with presidential honors and recognition on the Dean’s List. I actually got accepted and enrolled into UCLA, so it’s no longer just a dream.

This ceremony isn’t just a personal milestone; it’s a collective celebration for my family, particularly because my son will experience his first college graduation. I am excited Dichar will be able to witness the result of resilience and unwavering determination. 

How do you believe your experiences as a student mother has shaped your approach to instilling values of resilience, dedication, and balance in both your academic pursuits with the joys and responsibilities of motherhood?

Balancing motherhood and academia has instilled in me a profound sense of resilience and dedication—values I strive to impart to my son every day. One memorable moment was when Dichar made me a salmon sandwich and said, “Mommy, get up, don’t give up” as I was exhausted and did not want to leave the couch. This was a powerful reminder that he absorbs both my struggles and my resilience. 

His declaration that he wants to attend Pierce College one day shows that Dichar understands the effort behind my achievements and aspires to obtain the same. My experience as a student mother has underscored the importance of balance—juggling the demands of my studies with the joys and responsibilities of raising a child. 

The support system at Pierce College has been instrumental. Having faculty members who’ve helped with my son when needed has alleviated some of the practical burdens and enriched our lives, making my academic journey feasible and more rewarding. This community has been crucial in teaching us that with the right support and determination, any challenge can be overcome. 

What legacy do you hope to leave behind at your college? What are you most proud of from your time enrolled in college?

Looking ahead, the legacy I hope to leave behind at Pierce College is one of triumph and resilience—the powerful message that one’s beginning does not dictate the ending. It’s crucial for me to inspire others to recognize that seeking help, using resources, or even creating new ones when necessary are all steps on the path to success. I want to encourage students to bring others along on their journey and to actively give back to their community, embodying the spirit of collective uplift. 

What fills me with the most pride, as I look back on my time at Pierce College, are the lifetime relationships I’ve forged. These relationships have deeply influenced my personal and professional growth. My mentors have provided academic guidance and emotional support, often knowing just what to say. This network of support and understanding represents a personal and educational triumph that I hope to pass on to others. 

What are your next steps?

My ambition is to further my psychology studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, with the goal of obtaining a Doctor of Medicine (MD). Beyond the classroom, I hope to leverage my story and academic background to connect with and assist others who are navigating similar challenges, striving for sustainable solutions that can make a real difference in people’s lives.

Please join us in uplifting Dia James’ story and in celebrating student mothers. To learn more about the challenges student parents face and ways we can help, visit our website

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation working toward equity for underserved and historically underrepresented communities by expanding access to educational and employment opportunities, increasing affordability of educational programs, and ensuring the necessary supports are in place for individuals to thrive. To do so, we work in the following verticals: Digital Equity, Intellectual Property, Smart Justice, Student Basic Needs, and Open Educational Resources (OER). Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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