This HBCU Student Became the UDC Miss Junior at the Age of 42

Being a college student is a challenge in itself, but being a non-traditional student can come with its own set of challenges. It’s common to see most people completing their college career in their early to mid twenties, unless they are in a highly specialized field that needs additional training. However, as with life, everyone’s educational journey won’t look the same. Some people may start their journey in a “traditional” way right after high school, and have to leave due to personal reasons. Then you have those who may have graduated from undergrad years earlier, but decide later on that they want to go back for another degree.

In this article series, we want to highlight those HBCU students and graduates that either started or went back to college later in life, and give you a look into the life of a non-traditional student. In this article, JoVan Angela Alema Williams- Bey, the 2022-2023 University of the District of Columbia Miss Junior, tells her story of not only going back to college as a non-traditional student, becoming a student leader on campus.


University of the District of Columbia / Class of 2024

What inspired you to go back to school?

I have been in Early Childhood Education for 25 years and wanted to grow in my craft as an educator and eventually become a leader or an education policy maker. My impact became greater than my years of service and I needed the credentials to do so in this field. I was also approached many times for opportunities in a leadership capacity, but the roadblock of me not qualifying academically would be my downfall. So, I decided to finish my degree program.

Tell us your story of attending your HBCU and being a non traditional student. What is (or was) the experience like for you?

My experience at the University of the District of Columbia has been an amazing experience and journey. I had the opportunity to become a student leader by joining the Undergraduate Student Government Association in the 2021-2022 academic year. I also hold leadership positions with the National Society of Leadership (Chapter President) and Success and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated (Chapter Basileus). These roles allowed me to focus on student engagement and bring awareness to our campus as an HBCU in Washington DC . Oftentimes people only think Howard University is the only HBCU in DC, nonetheless that’s where I strive to bring awareness of our historic campus.

Tell us about your experience running for and becoming Miss Junior

 I just turned 43 last month so I was 42 during this coronation. UDC student engagement is still growing post pandemic. However I used my voice as my platform to spark interest in becoming Miss Junior. I spoke to the other candidates about finding a Mister Junior. One thing I learned during this time was patience. Patience was a key factor only because we don’t have super enthusiastic students at our school. Our school is a commuter school and student engagement is very low for the social scene. Along with students just not know what is available for them to participate in.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking about going back to college to complete their degree ?

My advice is to do research into which program that will grow them professionally along with aligning with their passion.

What is (or was) life like for you outside of being a student ?

Life is amazing. I feel a sense of accomplishment.

Where the HBCU Culture Resides