Liberal Arts alumna pursues passions through her career

Katie Moats
December 16, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For the Class of 2020, graduating amidst a pandemic has generated a lot of uncertainty. A lot of plans have been put on hold, job offers might have been rescinded, and Penn State’s newest alumni have been figuring out what to do next.

For former College of the Liberal Arts student marshal Awaly Diallo, however, all of the extra time gave her the chance to figure out what she wanted to do with her life and what her passions were. Building upon her passion for advocacy that she developed during her time at Penn State, Diallo has embarked on a career path that allows her to continue making a difference in the world.

Diallo, who graduated last spring with degrees in sociology and African American studies, currently works as a paralegal for the Support Center for Child Advocates (SCCA), a non-profit in Philadelphia that provides legal assistance to abused and mistreated children. While going to law school and becoming a civil rights attorney has always been the plan, her current job experience has helped reinforce that dream.

“Graduating during a pandemic truly makes you grateful for the experiences and memories you had while in college,” Diallo said. “I have been brainstorming about my next steps for my career and activism within my community. Since I’ve been back home, I’ve reconnected with activists and organizers across the country and in Philadelphia. These moments have revitalized my plans to become a civil-rights attorney.”

Since starting her job with SCCA, Diallo said she has been able to learn a lot about how the child welfare system works in the United States. Even though it’s been difficult trying to adjust to starting her work and meeting her colleagues virtually, she’s been thankful for the experiences she’s had so far.

“It’s been such an experience working for SCCA,” Diallo explained. “I’ve learned so much about the child welfare system and the social inequities that inhibit that process. I’ve also had many opportunities to attend webinars, training, and programs to learn more about other public service organizations such as legal representation for parents, housing insecurity programs, and racial justice.”

While she’s always been passionate about helping people and advocating for racial justice and similar causes, Diallo believes that her advocacy efforts at Penn State helped prepare her not only for her job as a paralegal, but also her future in law school and beyond.

Diallo was a Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Honors Scholar at Penn State. She is also a past recipient of the Rock Ethics Institute’s Stand Up Award and was recognized as a Liberal Arts Change Maker.

“This University and even the college are huge,” she noted. “If you don’t advocate for yourself, you can find yourself feeling invisible and unheard. Penn State taught me how to stand up for myself. In the ‘real world,’ advocating for yourself is imperative for the perpetuity of your career and mental health. You set the standard for what you will and will not tolerate in whatever space you enter.”

Diallo believes that Penn State seniors that will graduate amidst the pandemic should focus on filling their lives with things that they find meaningful.

“Advice during these unpredictable times can be hard to consume as a senior or as anyone about to embark on a new part of your journey, so I simply urge anyone that believes in living in their purpose to fill your life up with things and people that aid in your happiness,” she said. “After college, you can lose your sense of stability or support. That’s why I encourage everyone to find those who will always support all parts of your identity, practices that support your mental well-being, and careers that support your ‘why.’”

Last Updated December 18, 2020