Nontraditional Student Week Day 5: Melissa “I work full-time”

Happy Nontraditional Student Week! There are many attributes to those defined as nontraditional students — from working status, to children, ethnicity, and age. I will be featuring a different nontraditional student every day this week — students who work hard to achieve their goals despite the factors that work against their success! I hope you find them as encouraging and inspirational as I do! If you are a nontraditional student, please share your story with me!

Name: Melissa Diaz

IMG_1531I am nontraditional because: I am a full time business professional and mother of two young children.

College: I graduated with an AA in accounting from Chaffey College in 2004, and am barely getting to my Bachelor’s degree ten years later! I am now at Cal State Fullerton College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Major: English

Share a bit of your story: your struggles, your proud moments, etc. : 

As a professional with a full time job I often struggle with cutting myself off from the office and going home to get homework done. My profession can be very high stress and leaving the office to get to class or get home to see my children can be very difficult when I also have several people that depend on me at work for their own livelihood.

What is even more difficult is the time that I am missing with my children. Missing my son’s soccer games and not signing my daughter up for dance class because I simply don’t have the hours in the day to do those things and it tugs at my heart. My son did a mother’s day assignment in class this year & when he had to fill in the blank for “MY MOM IS GOOD AT:” his response was “DOING HER HOMEWORK.” It was heartbreaking knowing that my son feels the time away from each other, but I also really feel that he understands by example how important education is.

 My proudest moment was when I received my grades for my first semester back in seven years. Not only did I pass five classes, but I obtained a 3.6 GPA for that semester. I had such huge feeling of accomplishment because the first day I stepped foot on campus I honestly felt there was no way I was going to pass five classes, work full time, and be a wife and mother. I just signed up for five, wanted to give it my best shot, and retake any that I couldn’t make it through, but I actually made it through with flying colors. I think setting high expectations is important for the non-traditional student. I think students like me tend to feel that they are already up against so much that they are afraid of setting an even higher standard for themselves. Nothing you do is going to be detrimental to you. That is one thought I confidently kept at all times. If I were to fail a class, I would just have to take it over. End of story. It might be uncomfortable, but it is not the end of the world.

 I still struggle with two kids who want nothing but to go to the park with me, or have a few minutes of story time, but I fully believe all of us will be better when I have accomplished my goals. The struggles with time are temporary, but the rewards will be permanent.

Advice to other nontraditional students:

 While two years or four years, or whatever amount of time it will take you to graduate may seem like a lifetime away, trust that it will fly by. And it will. Sixteen weeks is a tiny speck of time in comparison to the rewards that you will reap for completing your education.

Take any available help that you can get. That means asking for help sometimes instead of waiting for it to show up. Use your support system. For me that means having my in-laws to help with the kids, asking my sister to drive 50 miles to watch them for me, or asking my mom to take a day off at her job to help. It never hurts to ask!

I also learned to go to my professors during their office hours. I think this is especially applicable to English majors, where we are writing a lot of papers. As a younger student I was always fearful of this part of college life: I didn’t want to “bother” my professors. As an older student I have realized how much just a few minutes alone with your professor might mean to the grade you receive in the class. If you are really struggling with something or just need direction on a paper topic go to see your professor.   As an older student I came to the realization that I pay their salary & I want to take full advantage of all of the services that are offered to me.

Favorite inspiring quote:

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King


Thank you so much Melissa for sharing your story! You are a superstar! And thank you to each of you for having shared your story.


Read more stories from Days 1-4 here:

Jennifer “I am over 25”

Johnny “I am a minority”

Arianna “I am a parent”

David “I am low income” 


Check out my blog post featured on Pearson’s Teaching and Learning blog where I discuss nontraditional students:

Real Talk: I am the New Normal

One thought on “Nontraditional Student Week Day 5: Melissa “I work full-time”

  1. Mary Jo says:

    It has been 15 years since I have been in your shoes and reading your story hits me like it was yesterday. I was also labeled a ‘non traditional’ student but I didn’t care. I was a single mother, working full time and going to school at night. Yes, I missed my share of school events and time with my kids but they realize the importance of education and perseverance. In fact my oldest is now a college graduate himself. Keep on trucking–this will be one of your greatest accomplishments in life.

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