Meet an Alumni: Melissa Hummel

"The light at the end of the tunnel will shine, I promise."
What are your children’s names and how old are they?
My son’s name is Zayne. He is 16 years old and my daughter, Skylur, is 15 years old.
 
What is your degree and where do you work now?
I have an AA, AS and BSW degree. I do plan to get my master’s degree in psychology or counseling with clinical mental health. I work at Monitor Elementary in Springdale, AR. I am the 21CCLC coordinator, the TANG grant coordinator and also an aid. I will be taking my license test to be a school-based social worker.
 
What has been the most rewarding thing about having a degree?
With my degree in social work, I am able to help families and students find resources that they are in need of. Providing food to families who suffer from food insecurity or clothes. These families are so thankful to be able to put clothes on their children’s back. When I pack food for each week, I have students who love to help me. I have been able to share with them, that with their help they are helping a family out. I have told them that sometimes in life we may need help and it’s okay to ask for it. Don’t be embarrassed to ask. 
 
What or who kept you motivated during your time as an SPSF scholarship recipient? How did SPSF contribute to that motivation?
My “what” would be my schooling. Each semester I would set a goal and with that goal it kept me motivated as well as focused. Making the Dean’s List and the Chancellors List have been was very rewarding. Working, going to college, interning, raising two children who are very active in sports was motivating me even more. I would remind my children that nothing would stop me even when I wanted to quit, I would not give that satisfaction to ones who wanted to me fail.
 
My “who” would be my children. Everything I did and still do is for them. Each night, we would sit at the table and do homework together and they thought that was the coolest thing. As, they got older my homework was being done during their practices or at games. I had many late nights studying or completing assignments.
 
How did your pursuit of a college education influence your children or other family members?
My children have seen me struggle, but with that, they also saw me overcome. They know that life is not easy, and if you want something you have to work hard for it. Both of my children want to attend college after high school. We have talked about scholarships and with that, their grades have to be kept up.
 
What has changed most for you and your family now that you are no longer in school?
This is a funny one. I no longer carry a backpack to my children’s wrestling practices or tournaments. After I graduated in 2019, I felt lighter every time walking to my car. Why? Because I was not hiking a packed backpack. I only have to buy school supplies for two not three.
 
What was the most beneficial part of being a SPSF scholarship recipient? 
Where do I begin? I honestly did not know what to expect and I have gained a supporting family, friends and donors. Being able to open up and not feel judged about my story. I have had to call to ask for toilet paper because I was out and my paycheck was a week away. You all made sure my children had a Christmas.
 
A parent’s worst nightmare is not being able to provide, but with the SPSF scholarship, I was able to make sure my family never went without what they needed.
 
To the staff and donors- thank you! You, plus my friends and children, are the reason I walked across the UofA stage.
 
What do Zayne and Skylur want to be when they grow up?
My son Zayne wants to get a degree in business and possibly work for big vendors. He has a big brother through BBBS and his big works for a big vendor and Zayne has learned so much through the years. He wants to pursue that avenue. As, for my daughter Skylur she wants to be a trauma surgeon. Being able to help others in a very difficult time is what drives her.
 
What is your favorite SPSF memory or activity (events, socials, fundraisers, etc.)? 
I would have to say it was when we had the opportunity to go to a home and it was for a company’s team build, but also my children were getting a new bike. The company had two groups where they had to put two bikes together from scratch.
 
Once they completed, they were told that my children would be getting them. The faces of both the teams were priceless. The ones who built the bikes- you could tell they questioned themselves. Were the bikes safe? Are the screws tight? Did we miss anything?
 
Little did they know that the bikes my children would be gifted were already built. Watching them work as a team and communicate was something I was able to point out to my kids- in order for a team to grow you must be good at communicating and working together.
 
Looking back, was there one skill that you learned that was particularly useful, either in college or in the professional world?
I would say empathy/being able to recognize one’s emotions and be able to share perspectives with others. Being able to do this helps me at work and at home. Building a rapport with my students is so important. The beginning of each school year is hard for many.
 
Being new to the school sucks (sorry for that word, but it’s true). Who will talk to me? Who will sit next to me? Will they make fun of me, and will I fit in? No child should have to worry or stress, but they do, so being able to recognize those emotions and show empathy helps me to build that relationship with them.
 
What advice would you give someone desiring to go back to school/current recipient?
I would tell them it’s never too late to go back.
 
Can’t is not a word. You can and you will.
 
The journey is hard and yes there are many days you will want to quit. I’ve been there. However the darkness is only temporary. The light at the end of the tunnel will shine, I promise.
 
What is something that has surprised you since graduating?
I actually have missed going to school. Yes, I know that sounds very crazy. I have learned so much and being older and a mom, I love to learn and use what I have learned to help others.
 
Anything else you’d like to share?
When I walked through the doors at SPSF, I was a self-doubting and scared single mother. I’ve always been compared to my older sister from my parents, then the man I loved did the same. The first year and half of my journey, I struggled with believing in myself. It wasn’t until I passed my College Algebra and Statistics class, the scared and timid girl was now confident and proud.
 
 
The support from the staff, donors, alumni and recipients pushed me through the years. The friendships I’ve made will be cherished. If it wasn’t for the donors who believed in us to donate and the staff to encourage and keep us on track, I would not have been able to accomplish graduating from college.
 
I know it took many years, but no one can ever take away my degree. My children saw me struggle but they also saw me push through and not give up. 

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