Charletta Royster-McNeish

Student Spotlight: Charletta Royster-McNeish

June 27, 2023 Torrance, CA

Charletta Royster-McNeish – known as “Chachie” to her friends – did not plan to start all over at this stage in her life. A self-described proud Gen Xer, the confident and charismatic student enrolled in El Camino College to gain education and job skills to become competitive in the business world. She eventually changed course and is now headed toward a completely different career and a new purpose.

“El Camino helped me find my passion in terms of what I really want to do with my life,” she said. “I have a corporate background, but I realized that my true calling is community service. My education showed me this. So, after I earn my degrees, I want a career in higher education as a counselor so I can help people. I want to give back and pay it forward.”

El Camino came into Royster-McNeish’s life by chance, with several signs literally pointing the way. She had just been laid off from a 20-year career in business management, working up the corporate ladder with only a high school diploma; she soon realized that she couldn’t advance without a college degree. That same day, she aimlessly drove down Manhattan Beach Boulevard in despair, worried about her future. She came to a stop in front of El Camino College, looked up at the sign on the corner, and immediately enrolled in the winter 2020 term.

“After I was laid off, I realized there are not a lot of work opportunities for high school grads, so being at El Camino was about me reinventing myself, and starting with the basics,” she said. “I saw the sign for El Camino, which means ‘the road,’ ‘the way,’ and I just knew this would lead me to where I needed to be. I had put my education on hold once before, now this is my priority.”

The first in her family to graduate from college, Royster-McNeish earned two degrees from El Camino in 2023, one in sociology and the other in social science/behavioral science. She was accepted to UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UC Davis, and UCLA and ultimately decided to transfer to UCLA on a full scholarship to continue her education as a sociology major. Earning a master’s degree is also part of her plan.

Royster-McNeish’s time at El Camino was challenging due to financial hardships, the learning curve of returning to the classroom after a long absence, and then the COVID-19 pandemic brought new stress as classes and services moved online. But she pushed through, found financial aid, scholarships, and support through programs such as EOPS and encouragement from her professors and counselors. Royster-McNeish graduated with nearly straight A’s while serving full time as a volunteer coordinator and literacy tutor with AmeriCorps Reading Partners.

Even with her intensely busy schedule, she still had time to join the Alpha Gamma Sigma honor society and the Student Leadership Institute; serve as the ASO commissioner of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and work with the Black Student Success Center and Social Justice Center – two new student spaces. She feels prepared for university work and is excited to start a new academic adventure.

“I’m so grateful to El Camino for being there at a time when I really needed it,” she said. “Being laid off was terrible, but in hindsight, I am glad that it happened because otherwise I would not be on the path that I’m on now.”