Meet OCC 2024 Grad: Aaliyah Coe

When she applied to OCC, Detroit resident Aaliyah Coe, 26, found out about the Promise Zone scholarship. Students from Detroit, Hazel Park and Pontiac are eligible to apply for this scholarship. The scholarship pays all or part of a student’s tuition and fees. For Coe, this opportunity gave her a fresh start.  

“In high school, I was an average student,” said Coe, who is graduating with an associate degree in Arts. “When I got to college, I was determined to do better.” 

She was also motivated to overcome her fears so she could pursue her dream of being a writer. 

“My godsister is a journalist, and I was inspired by her,” Coe said. “I’ve always wanted to write, but I didn’t know if I could speak in front of people. I was shy and didn’t have much confidence, but I was determined to change that.” 

Pushing through challenges

Aaliyah Coe

Aaliyah Coe with her 3-year-old son, Azel.

This grit and resolve would serve Coe well as she pushed through several challenges, starting with getting used to remote learning and staying motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“My online classes were difficult, so I had to be completely self-directed,” she said. 

She added, “I was also surrounded by people who weren’t interested in college. But it just motivated me to keep pursuing my dream.”

Coe also got pregnant and had her son during this time. Given the risk of COVID-19, she practiced social distancing and limited her exposure to family, and no one saw the new baby until a month after he was born.  

“It was tough not seeing my family,” she said. “But I had a lot of support and prayers. I had to have patience to know that this would come to an end, and that we will overcome all of this.” 

Coe’s family helped support her when she went back to classes at OCC. 

“My son just started early beginner’s school last September,” she said. “Before that, he was home with me most of the time. My mom and dad would come over and help when they could, but other than that, I would have to juggle classes and homework around him.” 

Changing things up 

Coe learned how to multitask, balancing school, full-time work and taking care of her son. She said it helped that OCC offered some flexibility, so she was able to plan her classes around her schedule. 

She also used some of the resources at OCC, including meeting with her professors during office hours and participating in study groups with her classmates. In addition, her Detroit Promise coach was a source of constant support.  

“We did monthly check-ins, which could be in-person, by phone or by Zoom,” Coe said. 

It was great having someone to talk to when she had a difficult time in a class, or to get more information about what was going on in Detroit Promise, such as internship opportunities. She also did periodic Zoom meetings with other Detroit Promise students, and they shared their experiences and helped motivate each other. 

Gaining confidence

Ultimately, Coe overcame her fears of public speaking, became more confident and worked hard to balance everything in her life and do well enough in her classes to get on the Dean’s List. Looking back, she’s proud of how far she’s come. 

“I realized I could do more than I thought,” she said. “I know now that I can be very focused and determined when I need to be.” 

In the fall, Coe will attend Wayne State University, where she plans to get a bachelor's degree in journalism before getting her master’s degree. In her career, she wants to pursue multiple types of writing, including becoming an author and writing her own short stories and novels.  

Coe’s transformative experiences at OCC have also motivated her to find other ways to improve her community. 

Next generation making change

“Nothing can change unless we change ourselves,” she said. “We are the next generation, so we are the ones who are going to make the change.”

For Coe, this means helping her community get better about taking care of each other and supporting children so they can pursue their own dreams. For example, by opening a center where young children feel safe and can also participate in after school programs.

“OCC was a life-changing journey for me,” Coe said. “I’ve enjoyed my moments here, and I’m eager to see what my next chapter looks like.” 

Aaliyah Coe is graduating in May with an Associate in Arts. She joins more than 1,800 OCC 2024 graduates empowered to succeed. Join them in starting your someday, today.