As we were sifting though the pile of applicants for Glamour’s 2021 College Women of the Year—focused entirely on community college students across the U.S.—we had an idea: Wouldn’t it be something if the first lady of the United States could somehow be involved? Like the applicants, she’s always struck a balance between work and commitments that come with family and community. And of course, Jill Biden, Ed.D., is probably the most visible advocate we have for community colleges and how they can contribute to educational equity—she taught at Delaware Technical & Community College, and since 2009 she’s been a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).
After some emails and successful Zoom calls with her team, Dr. Biden said she’d love to help, and so in early June, Glamour editor in chief Samantha Barry went to Washington, D.C., to interview her about the unequivocal value of community college institutions (watch that here). But we also managed to pull off a surprise for two of our applicants, who thought they were hopping on a Zoom for an interview with Glamour and instead were met with the first lady, who delivered the news that they were chosen as two of our 2021 Community College Women of the year.
The two women are incredibly accomplished. You can read their stories—along with our other five honorees here—but here’s a snapshot: Tay Mosely, 46, attends Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, and is a beloved tutor in the college’s writing lab. She’s overcome some pretty heavy mental health challenges with grace and has found that blogging is a cathartic outlet. On Tay’s Bipolar Cooking, she fuses her life’s twin pillars: cooking and mental health awareness—both of which go hand in hand for Tay. After graduation she plans to open her own catering business.
Katherine Haley, 29, graduated from Bristol Community College in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 2021 as valedictorian of her class and is headed to Brown University in the fall. Katherine’s story is powerful and, honestly, incredible: Having overcome obstacles that include losing both her parents, homelessness, and a decade of drug addiction, she’s not only an advocate for recovery awareness but an exceptionally brave young woman charting a course that a previous version of herself could never have imaged. At Brown in the fall, she will study psychology to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Suffice it to say, surprised is an understatement when both women signed on and saw FLOTUS waiting for them on Zoom. The conversations were heartfelt and honest, and prove that no matter how old you are or what situations you’ve found yourself in previously, community college is for everyone and can lead to some really incredible opportunities, as it has for Tay, Katherine, and all of our 2021 honorees.