Alumni Corner: Sara Birman

Sara’s story is a real inspiration and serves as a role model for their children as well as other students.  When  you read about one of our newest OCCC Alumni, I am certain you will agree. Sara, take it away.

I was born in Corvallis but bounced around a great deal between Yachats, Waldport and Newport. It was just my mom and me and we were homeless sometimes.

My freshman year, dual enrollment was introduced as a pilot program. Myself and one other student were allowed to take one class: I chose cultural anthropology for a couple of credits. It inspired and excited me.

My junior year was spent at Newport High School. Then I transferred to high school in Waldport and dropped out. I had to start working to support myself. While working, I enrolled in the GED program at OCCC. In 2008, the year of the great recession,  received my GED when I should have graduated High School. Staff discouraged me from walking with my class, but I did it anyway because it was what I was “supposed to do.”

I applied for and fortunately received The Noble Alan Carlton scholarship and was attending college until my scholarship ran out. At that time, I was  living between Klamath Falls and Waldport and eventually left school for a good job in Klamath Falls.

Almost ten years later, I knew what I wanted to do and what I could afford. Because of my life experiences, I was passionate about the field of social work.  I took a flying leap of faith.

Once again, I applied for scholarships but this time, I had a direction. I bid for the graveyard shift where I worked in the  Lincoln County Juvenile Department and went back to school. After working at the juvenile shelter home and detention facility for 6.5 years, I was offered a position for the Oregon Department of Human Services. I love working with young people and families and can relate to what many of them are going through.

Since I enrolled at OCCC, I was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the honor society for community colleges. I was even named an “All Oregon Academic Scholar.” This summer I start at the school of social work at PSU.

My goal is to earn a BS in Social work and continue on to law school to study public policy.

Walking with fellow classmates for OCCC Commencement is even more meaningful since I’m doing this to honor myself and my work. I am thrilled that my partner and our four children will be able to experience this with me.

Fellow OCCC students, I want to remind you that all of your hard work is worth it. Even if you have to homeschool your children, as we did during COVID, while you are attending classes and working, the stress pays off at the end. Take advantage of the Oregon Promise grant and apply for scholarships. Do whatever you can to achieve that degree, you are worth it.

Donors, I want you to know how thankful I am to you. It is a huge motivator to know that  someone I never met cares and wants me to succeed. Your generosity helped me go somewhere.

It gives us hope for the future.

Sara graduated in Winter 2022 with an AAOT and was selected to the PTK’s All Oregon Academic Team. They are the Co-Chair of the Coastal Equity and Inclusion Committee and currently work for the state of Oregon as a program analyst for the independent living team at Child Welfare Central office. 

When they are not studying or working, they enjoy all types of outdoorsy activities: kayaking, hiking, baseball and basketball with their children ages 3, 7, 9, and 11.

Congratulations, Sara. Wishing you and your family all the best. We hope you keep in touch with the OCCC Foundation.  It will be a treat to follow your life’s path.