Melissa ’22

Melissa Vega '22First-generation Berea College Nursing student, Melissa ’22, chose to become a nurse after witnessing the toll her family’s workload took on their bodies as well as the barriers they faced to the medical care they needed. Yet even with her drive and excellence in school, Melissa faced the cold fact that the high-quality college education to become a nurse is staggeringly expensive. “I’ve known I’d have to put myself through college since I was 12 years old,” she said. “My parents couldn’t afford college, so I started saving up then.”

Fortunately, Melissa discovered Berea College, where both the No-Tuition Promise and Labor Program meant she wouldn’t be charged for either college tuition or nursing certification tests. She said, “The opportunity to come here tuition-free just blows my mind every day. I had hoped for a great education. But this is more than I ever wished for.”

For Melissa, the Labor Program pulls double duty—it allows extra insight into her rigorous Nursing studies while also giving her a much-needed break from them. She holds two labor positions, one as a Teaching Assistant in Berea’s high-tech simulation Nursing Lab and another in the very different context of the Hutchins Library reference desk. Setting up experiments and tutoring students in the nursing lab gives her an edge in classes and in the job market. It also makes her quiet work in the library—tending the shelves and helping patrons find the information they need—feel like a chance to recharge while also providing a valuable service. Creating chances for recovery amid grueling workloads helps her both honor herself and ensure she is in tip-top shape to help others. In short, these positions help her become an even better caring professional.

“Berea has given me the opportunity to take care of myself, and that has been very important to me to grow as a person,” she said.“I think that makes me a better nurse. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

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