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Near-death experience inspires TRIO student of the month

Near-death experience inspires TRIO student of the month

NORFOLK, Neb. -- Northeast Community College student Melanie Alvarez of Norfolk is the January 2024 TRIO-CSP student of the month. She is the daughter of Jessica Hernandez of Norfolk.

Melanie was born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif., and moved to Norfolk when she was 13. She recalls the shock of moving in the winter and not having the appropriate attire to deal with Nebraska’s harsh winters. Melanie is completing her degree here at Northeast Community College and will graduate in 2025 with her associate degree in nursing. 

After her graduation, Melanie will be looking to take the skills and abilities she has learned from the Northeast Nursing Program and secure a career in nursing.  Specifically, she would like to work with families in labor and delivery in a small town.    

Melanie’s career aspirations of working in the medical field come from a desire to help others in their time of need, much like she experienced from the medical professionals who saved her life when she was only 16. In high school, Melanie experienced a cardiac arrest after track practice. Her uncle, who was at the scene, completed CPR until medical professionals arrived and were able to complete further lifesaving measures. 

Melanie was legally dead for over five minutes, and little hope remained for her to recover.  By the grace of God and the expertise of medical professionals, Melanie was able to beat overwhelming odds and eventually made a full recovery. The experience left her with a pacemaker but with the inspiration and motivation to become a medical professional herself. Through the lifesaving efforts of first responders, nurses, and doctors, Melanie was given a second chance at life. Then through encouragement and support, those same professionals highlighted her story at numerous events and conferences, inspiring Melanie to discover her life’s calling.     

However, the path to this career had not yet become visible to Melanie. Throughout high school, she admits she did not put forth the effort to achieve success, as she had no hopes of attending college. But then another life-changing experience occurred, and Melanie became a mother to her beautiful and intelligent daughter, Dalia.  During this time, a friend of Melanie decided to apply for college and Melanie followed suit. That set her forth on an academic journey that would make her new daughter proud.  

With the odds again stacked against her, Melanie enrolled at Northeast in Fall 2023 as a nontraditional, First-Generation college student.  Throughout her short time here, Melanie has achieved academic excellence and currently holds a stellar 3.76 cumulative GPA. Melanie admits that she could not have accomplished this on her own, and graciously highlights those individuals who have and continue to support her on her journey. 

Melanie’s mother, Jessica, is her greatest supporter and the foundation that allows Melanie to thrive.  Her mother always makes time to care for Dalia when Melanie must attend classes or complete assignments. Jessica is quick to tell Melanie how proud she is of her, and constantly encourages her to finish her college education.  

“My mom keeps me going and will do whatever it takes to help make my dreams come true,” Melanie said.

Melanie also credits her success to her daughter, Dalia.

“She is the reason I came to college,” she said. “Everything I do is for her.”

Melanie recalls the struggles her family experienced when she was young. Her hope is Dalia t won’t experience those same struggles. Through her academic and career journey, she hopes to show Dalia that she too can achieve her dreams. 

A supportive group of friends has also played a key role in Melanie’s success.  Her friends encourage her, help her with Dalia and tell her how proud they are of her. Her friends also remind her to take breaks. Their friendship helps to keep Melanie happy and positive.           

Melanie has been an active and influential member of the TRIO-CSP program during her short time here.  Through TRIO-CSP, she was awarded the opportunity to attend a National Student Leadership Diversity Convention in Boston, Mass., and is also creating and leading an academic awareness program with the assistance of her TRIO-CSP Adviser Josh Becker.  

This semester, Melanie will be visiting local high schools in Northeast’s 20-county service area to speak with juniors and seniors about her life and academic experiences. Through these speaking sessions, she hopes to inspire and motivate others to believe in themselves, and to set goals and dream beyond that they otherwise may not have thought possible. She also plans to share her knowledge of the various and valuable resources that Northeast has available. This innovative outreach program was created by Melanie to help others who may come from similar backgrounds or have experienced similar circumstances.

“I am honored to have a role in supporting Melanie through this endeavor. Her passion to help others is evident in everything she does, and I am excited to witness the impact this will have on our future students” said Josh Becker, her adviser. 

In her community, Melanie is a valued member of the First Christian Church.

Melanie also credits Becker with being a positive influence on her life.  

“Josh makes me feel welcome here and reassures me on the path I have chosen. He is always encouraging me to keep going,” she said.

Becker said Melanie helps to bring out the best in others.

“Melanie is a strong, intelligent, and compassionate young woman who demonstrates perseverance in every aspect of her life. She will no doubt accomplish whatever she puts her mind toward and is the type of person that will bring others with her to the top. I am so very proud of her and excited to be a part of her academic journey.”

Instructor Rachel Tillotson has more positive remarks.

“Melanie is a hardworking, respectful student who collaborated well with other students and always came to class with a positive attitude,” Tillotson said.

Melanie Alvarez