Life is a journey, and no matter how meticulously one plans, the pandemic has taught us we can never plan for everything.

Melissa and her pets cozy up on the couch with her.
Photo provided by Melissa Wilkins

Roseburg native, Melissa Wilkins, a nursing student and newly elected ASUCC vice president, knows this truth all too well.

“I started UCC originally at the end of 2018. That’s when I decided that I wanted a different career because I’ve been in cosmetology my whole life,” Wilkins said.  “My prerequisites will be met next year, and I will begin the two year nursing program in the fall,” Wilkins said.

Service based industries get hit hard when inflation and cost of living increases put the squeeze on already tight budgets. Wilkins shared that cost and loss of passion were the driving forces behind her career transition.

Melissa Wilkins poses with her cat.
Photo provided by Melissa Wilkins

Wilkins found out about the ASUCC position three weeks before elections.  She was telling her friend, Larisa Czernowski, the newly elected ASUCC president, about her difficulties paying for school and her anxieties around student debts. Czernowski told her about the student government positions and opportunities which Wilkins felt were in alignment with her passions and goals.

Prior to UCC, Wilkins attended cosmetology school in Roseburg and was only recently able to pay off the student loans for her prior education and certifications.

Wilkins then reached out to Dean of Students Marjan Coester, who was able to walk her through the application process.

ASUCC provides tuition assistance for 12 credits hours in exchange for the commitment of working in student government.  If not for the tuition assistance, Wilkins would not be able to pay for school without getting a second job.

Melissa Wilkins spends time with her husband dressed up and ready to enjoy the day. Photo provided by Melissa Wilkins

“I wanted to be vice president so I can get all my classes paid for, but I will enjoy the position anyways.  School at this point is getting expensive, and I ran out of money and at my job I don’t make really good money so I was to the point where I need to make more money,” said Wilkins

Currently Wilkins works as a tumbling coach for a local gymnastics studio.  She happened into the job thanks to a client in the fall of 2021, as she was leaving the cosmetology industry.

Wilkins met her husband through mutual friends in 2018, and they married in 2021.  Her husband is also a UCC student participating in the electrician program.

Marriage is a factor that can affect financial aid due to the dual income status, but Wilkins did not want to let funding school prevent her from achieving other life goals. The couple found thrifty ideas to outfit themselves and make their wedding happen.

While freelance cosmetology jobs are an option, the cost of products, travel, insurance and licensing prevents Wilkins from keeping her cosmetology skills fresh by taking occasional clients on the side for now. Instead, she is excited about diving into her new position within ASUCC as well as her future nursing courses.

Once Wilkins completes her nursing degree, she would like to contribute her new skills to the local community.  She hopes to work at CHI Mercy or the Roseburg VA.  Wilkins and her husband bought a house in the area and hope to remain close to their family in the Roseburg area.

To contact Wilkins or other members of ASUCC student leadership use the council email provided on the ASUCC webpage.

Contact me at:
UCCMainstream@yahoo.com

For more articles by J.R. Williams please click here.