A military wife and mother of three earned her nursing degree on Mother’s Day – the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Melissa Gillespie, 37, who is married to a Navy sailor, joined thousands of fellow students at Southern New Hampshire University on Sunday and received her degree after a long journey to graduation.
“Growing up in a poor family, education often feels like a pipe dream,” said Gillespie. “Getting to the point where I am the first in my family to graduate college, it’s really special. I feel like I’m putting something out there that my children can come behind me and say, "It’s not a pipe dream; I can do it, too.'"
Gillespie’s path to a degree was no easy feat. Like many military families, she endured constant relocation, making it difficult to stay in one place long enough to complete her studies.
But she persisted, in large part to prove to her children — two of whom have special needs — that anything is possible, no matter the obstacle.
It took Gillespie 15 years to complete her associate’s degree and become a registered nurse.
In order to complete her program, Gillespie stayed in Washington State for an extended period of time with her three children — approximately 19 months — while her husband, Quinton, was stationed on the east coast.
During this time, Gillespie and her children rarely saw him.
Determined to continue on and earn her bachelor’s degree, Gillespie began taking online classes with SNHU in 2015.
Between working 12-hour shifts in the OR and caring for her children, Gillespie finally completed the program.
To have her children watch her walk across the stage on Mother’s Day was the perfect gift.
“As a mother, you always want what is best for your children and you want to be a role model,” said Melissa Gillespie. “I hope that when my children [saw] me graduate, they [saw] the culmination of all of the hard work, and all of the time they sacrificed, so that I could continue going to school, and that the time away from them has meant something.”