By the time Valeria Davis walked through the doors of Olive-Harvey College in 2004, she had already built up an impressive resume working in communities on the South Side of Chicago. In fact, while employed by a local state representative, she even got the chance to partner with an up-and-coming local politician – a South Sider himself – then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama.

Despite this prestigious work, Valeria found herself reminded and discouraged that she hadn’t earned a college degree. And as someone who encouraged her children to further their education, that reality hurt. She wanted to set an example for her kids – one that started at home.

After thinking it through, Valeria decided that Olive-Harvey College would be the best place to begin her educational journey. She jumped into her coursework in criminal justice and fully immersed herself in activities on campus, even winning a campus-wide election to serve as the student trustee on the City Colleges Board of Trustees. Additionally, as part of the Federal Work Study Program, she maintained a job in Olive-Harvey’s Student Services Department throughout the duration of her studies.

After earning her Associate in Arts from OHC in 2006, Valeria went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Governors State University. And more recently, the South Chicago resident went back to school again to receive her master’s degree in Educational Leadership from North Central College, graduating at the end of 2020. Through all of these experiences, she continued to work at OHC, rising the ranks and gaining the confidence of the college’s management team.

As Valeria puts it, “things have come full circle.” She has now worked at City Colleges for 16 years and is involved in as many committees as her schedule allows.

Most importantly, Valeria’s original goal – setting an example for her children – has been achieved. Two of her daughters, two nieces, and a nephew have all followed her footsteps and earned their associate degrees at Olive-Harvey. And once her granddaughter graduates from Simeon Career Academy this spring, she plans to continue her studies at OHC as well.

But Valeria’s educational journey isn’t over just yet. Thanks to the inspiration and example set by President Obama, she has always had dreams of becoming a lawyer. Starting this year, she’ll take another step towards that goal. In the final days of 2020, Valeria was accepted into the John F. Kennedy School of Law at Northcentral University in California. She recently enrolled and plans to focus on social justice law while pursuing her Juris Doctor degree.

For her kids, grandkids, and anyone else she comes into contact with, Valeria sets a strong, inspiring example – one that she says started right here at City Colleges.

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