Faces on Campus: Onjalai Flake

Onjalai Flake

Ask senior Onjalai Flake how long until graduation, and she immediately knows the answer. “Just 45 days!” she says with a big smile. And while it’s not uncommon for students in their final semester to count down the days until tests, papers and group projects are a thing of the past, for Flake, you get the feeling it’s quite the opposite. Each remaining day is another opportunity to squeeze every last drop out of her George Fox experience.

“I said no to everything for the first semester,” she recalls. “And then the second semester I went crazy.” Crazy might be an understatement. A double major in broadcast journalism and communication arts who loves nothing more than to be on stage or in front of the camera, Flake has emceed several on-campus events, including the Fox Film Festival, Mr. Bruin, World’s Got Talent, the Dating Game, the Peace’d Together Intercultural Conference and the annual lip sync competition, not to mention off-campus events like Portland Teen Idol.

“There’s just something about standing on stage and knowing that what you do will positively affect the people in the audience,” she says. “It’s life changing to know that I’m able to use the gifts God has given me to bring smiles to people’s faces.”

But the stage is just one place where Flake has put her gifts to good use. She’s become the go-to video personality for the university’s marketing communications office and hosts her own show on the student-operated radio station KFOX. She’s also been involved in the university gospel choir and the Hawaiian Club, is a Multicultural Leadership scholar, and for the past two years has served as the university’s student Welcome Weekend coordinator.

Why has Flake chosen to immerse herself so deeply in the college experience? There’s an easy answer: She never thought she’d have the chance. A 26-year-old transfer student when she enrolled at George Fox two and a half years ago, she spent much of her 20s caring for her ailing parents. Her father passed away due to kidney failure in 2010, and her mother is a breast cancer survivor.

“Even though I’m a nontraditional student I really wanted to have the traditional college experience,” she says. “All my life I’ve been caring for a family member, and I felt like college was my time to enjoy, to live life, to live out my youth.”

So Flake cherishes every last moment until her time at George Fox is up.

“The leadership development that I’ve received here, the lifelong relationships that I’ve formed, and the education is unparalleled to anything that I’ve experienced before,” she says. “I never thought I would see this day, to graduate with my second degree, being a nontraditional, first-generation, transfer student, and a student of color ... and the fact that I get to complete my degree with such a stellar education has been incredible. I’m really excited to graduate.”

She pauses for a moment, then smiles, “Just 45 days!”