From High School Dropout to OCC Admissions Team, OCC Alumnus Inspires Students

Kelly Thalmann

As a teenager and young adult, Kelly Thalmann felt like she didn’t fit in at school.  

She dropped out of high school.

She dropped out of her first alternative high school.

And she quit Oakland Community College her first time around after receiving a 0.0 GPA.

If you had told Thalmann that years later she would be standing in front of alternative high school students and talking to them about going to college, she likely would have rolled her eyes and laughed. 

But that’s indeed what has happened as the OCC alum shares her inspirational story with prospective college students as a member of the College’s Admissions team. Thalmann attended OCC tuition free through the Michigan Reconnect program during her last two semesters at the College.

“I’m an adult learner. I dropped out of school and later decided to go back to do something for me and prove to my four kids I could do something more. I’m balancing going to college, being a mom, going to dance competitions and soccer games. I worked so hard to get my GPA up and did it! I know if I can do this, others can too!”

Looking for something more 

In 2005, Thalmann came to OCC for the first time with no drive or ambition and ended up quitting. About a year later, she married her husband and started her family. Thalmann worked two jobs to help pay the bills but together with her husband decided to become a stay-at-home mom due to her husband’s demanding work schedule following the birth of her next two daughters.  

As her children grew up and became more independent with their own activities, Thalmann became depressed. She yearned for her own accomplishments and something more than being a mom. After her son was born, Thalmann decided it was time to take a crack at college again. In 2017, she re-enrolled in a summer class at OCC. To her surprise, she got an A.

But life happened and Thalmann found herself having to leave OCC again. Undeterred, she returned a year later after the pandemic hit and took advantage of OCC’s online courses. With her husband traveling weekly for work and juggling her four young children’s schedules, the online courses gave her the flexibility she needed. 

Thalmann later enrolled in some in-person classes to grow her connections with faculty and classmates. She became active in campus life as a student recruiter and through the College’s Peer Mentor and Conversation Partner programs. 

Third attempt leads to double degrees  

After five years, Thalmann received not one but two associate degrees at OCC–an associate in general studies and associate in arts. She also earned the proud distinction of serving as one of eight student marshals at her commencement ceremony.Kelly Thalmann

“All four of my kids were in the auditorium cheering and yelling (alongside my husband, parents, sister, and in-laws) and it was such an awesome experience,” she said. “I’m proud to be an OCC alum.” 

Thalmann received a transfer scholarship and is attending Oakland University beginning in Fall 2023 where she hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. 

Sharing what she has learned to inspire others 

In her work on OCC’s Admissions team, Thalmann travels to area alternative high schools to talk to prospective students about her successful educational journey. One of her recent stops was at Lincoln Street Alternative High School in Birmingham.

“Last year when I graduated from OCC, I applied at four different universities thinking I would not have a chance getting into any of these universities and not only did I get into all four schools, but all four offered me a scholarship to attend!”

“Never in a million years when I was sitting in a classroom like you guys did I think that college was an option for me,” she told the students. “I worked very hard, but I also utilized all of the resources that are available at OCC.” 

Students listened attentively as Thalmann talked about how the Academic Support Center, counseling sessions, transfer credit opportunities and other resources at the College helped her reach her goals at OCC.  

“I’ve met so many others who have said this and it’s true: OCC has had an incredible impact on my life,” she said. “Because of my love for OCC and being a student recruiter, I want to get a master’s degree in higher education and be a beacon of light for alternative education students who may think college is not in their futures.” 

Learn more about Michigan Reconnect program. For more information about OCC, a campus tour, or transfer sessions, visit  Admissions at OCC.