Melissa Shields is proof that all things are possible for those who believe in themselves, especially when they work hard and get the support they need to succeed.
At age 53, the Grossmont College student commencement speaker is a first-generation, African American college graduate. But she didn’t always have the confidence in her academic abilities as she does today. As a young adult, Shields believed that she was unintelligent. After her parents’ divorce, she dropped out of high school at 18. Then, life happened, and she became a wife and mom. As her children grew up, she realized that she had a limited ability to assist them with their homework. She was also embarrassed and ashamed to tell her children that she had not graduated high school.
But when she was 47, she realized that she had undervalued her own gifts and talents. She also recognized that what held her back was her own lack of belief in herself and her ability to achieve an education. So, she decided to let go of her secret and tell her children the truth. She subsequently enrolled in adult school to earn her General Equivalency Degree (GED), and she passed her language, social studies and science subjects in a three-month span. Unfortunately, her problem subject was mathematics, and she failed the exam three times in a two-year span. But she persevered and finally passed.
After earning her GED, she enrolled at Grossmont College where she “absolutely fell in love with the school.” Of course, like many students, she struggled in the beginning with the transition of juggling her life responsibilities as a wife and mom, with her new responsibilities as a full-time student. Again, she persevered, thanks to her family support system and her professors.
Throughout her time at community college, Shields has had her ups and downs, from appearing on the President’s List for a 4.0 GPA to the quick shift to online classes when the COVID-19 pandemic began. But she never gave up.
“When Covid-19 hit right in the beginning of my statistics class, I panicked and freaked out because I just didn't think I could do it,” Shields said. “But through it all, with prayer, hard work, dedication, and reliance on all of the support systems our school has in place, I have accomplished my goal.”
Shields graduates from Grossmont College with an associate’s degree in wellness and self-development. She plans to transfer to San Diego State University this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Africana Studies, and hopes to later earn a master’s degree in counseling.
Grossmont College's virtual commencement ceremony is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 9.