A lifelong learner and student of life, Yahziq Ohmn-Drayden entered academia at the
age of 40 by enrolling at Compton College in 2018. After contributing to his community
creatively for years through his work as an MC, writer, poet, and artist, Ohmn-Drayden
decided he wanted to develop other skills to help his community. He chose Compton
College because it is located in his hometown and holds special meaning for him. “While
I have moved from the area, I liked that I was still participating in the community
where I grew up,” he said.
Ohmn-Drayden was inspired by how Compton College serves a community he cares so deeply for and wanted to share his positive experiences with others to hopefully inspire them, as well. He views Compton College as a good resource for the community and said that he learned a great deal as a student. “I feel that in every class I learned such a wealth of information, and also learning how higher education works is priceless,” said Ohmn-Drayden.
Two years after enrolling at Compton College, in 2020, Ohmn-Drayden graduated with a 4.0 GPA and an associate degree for transfer, as well as an associate degree in welding. He transferred to California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) in fall 2020 and graduated in 2022 Suma Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
After graduation from CSUDH, Ohmn-Drayden applied to a doctorate program, was accepted, and began working toward a Ph.D. in applied psychology in fall 2022. “I have been doing community work since my early twenties,” he said. “One of the things I learned is that sometimes it is hard for people to ‘hear you’ when you don’t have validation, such as through an advanced degree. I believe my expertise would be best invested on the research side of psychology and focusing on solutions that can be enacted within the community for the betterment of all.”
He is also interested in the study of positive psychology which, in simple terms, focuses on wellness versus illness. Positive psychology is defined as the scientific study of human flourishing, and an applied approach to optimal functioning. “I am very interested in positive psychology,” he said. “There is a whole movement in this area of psychology. We need a blend of approaches to help increase our understanding of what is really going on and not just focus on the negative in terms of mental health.”
At Compton College, he was referred to and enrolled in the stated-funded Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS), which provides extra support for eligible students in higher education. The EOPS program provided him with services Ohmn-Drayden felt ultimately helped him finish his double major in two years. The book vouchers EOPS provided helped alleviate a bit of financial stress, and the counseling offered through EOPS was one of Ohmn-Drayden’s favorite services offered. “Every EOPS counselor I talked with totally kept me on track to take the classes I needed,” he said. “Once I decided I wanted to complete a double major, the counselors were able to assist me with my educational plan, identifying all the correct classes, and made sure I was aware of all of my deadlines for university transfer.”
During his time at Compton College, Ohmn-Drayden helped initiate a Welding Club with the idea that it would be a resource for students to network and do outreach in the community for potential jobs or to gain more experience. For years, he has been an independent artisan working with metal and wood, making custom pieces such as signs, plaques, and awards for businesses. “I would like to return to Compton College in some role to assist in working with the Welding Club,” he said, “I would like to help increase interest in the welding program at Compton through the club. I plan on helping in whatever capacity I can once I complete my doctorate program.”
Ohmn-Drayden is considering dissertation topics and focus for his research and once he earns his Ph.D., he will consider different career options such as a psychology researcher, authoring books, and teaching as a guest or independent lecturer. He wants to give back to society. He defines what he calls his “operating meditation” as follows:
“I’ve been watching and paying attention to the different societal dynamics we are currently dealing with in the U.S. and the world,” he said. “That has been my motivation to earn advanced degrees, so the social impact work I do can be even better, as well as improve my ability to affect change.”