Melisa Luce’s story is one of inspiration, strength, and perseverance. An educational journey that began at Asnuntuck in 2009 has culminated in her recent graduation from the college. What drew her to the Enfield college are many attributes that others have found appealing.
“I found that the tuition was affordable, it was near my home (less than 10 miles) as I live in Ellington, and most importantly, I knew a few people who had already graduated and said the professors were top-notch. Meaning the professors cared about their students, and I wouldn’t be just a number. That was very important to me, as I was not a young student! I worked a full-time job, had a husband, and four children, and also volunteered at my church as a CCD teacher, “ said Luce, “I needed a school that offered night and weekend classes and a college that I wouldn’t feel out of place in the classes, due to my age. I found my perfect match at Asnuntuck.”
Initially, when Luce came to Asnuntuck her plan was to train to become a police officer. Her first three years at the college were focused on a degree in Criminal Justice. “In 2012, I was promoted to Retail Project Manager. With that promotion came a lot of traveling. My territory was the whole United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. I was on a plane more than I wasn’t most weeks,” said Luce. She explained, “I took a break from my studies as I got used to my new position and the demanding hours. That promotion caused me to switch my major to general studies in 2015.”
Adapting to change was nothing new to Luce. “Being a high school dropout, due to becoming pregnant at the age of fifteen, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I had ruined my life, and also thought my children would never have a chance in life to become successful. I’m proud to have proved them all wrong!” Despite change and sometimes uncertainty, Luce always concentrated on her education. “Earlier in my life, in 2005, I graduated from Connecticut Training Center, earning a certificate of academic excellence for outstanding performance, with a 3.84 GPA, as a Patient Care Associate. That program was very different than my classes at Asnuntuck. My instructors were retired nurses, plus it was four nights a week and at the end of the courses, I had to do a two-week internship before graduating. I also graduated with an award for having 100% retention of medical terminology,” said Luce.
She acknowledges that there were many people that have helped her reach her goals. “Since the day I was accepted to Asnuntuck Community College (letter received on August 1, 2005), I have had many people help me on my journey. First-person that comes to mind is Tim St. James. He worked very hard to transfer as many credits as possible from my nursing program for me.” She added, “Since then, every person I’ve come into contact with, from the gals in the admissions office to the awesome women in financial aid, to my amazing professors/instructors, even the sweet people in the bookstore, who always went out of their way to get me everything I needed in time to start my classes-every single one of them has been more than helpful and kind.”
Luce has faced hurdles but says she has always felt supported. “My biggest challenge has no doubt been math! I’ve thanked the Lord above for Marybeth Rajczewski. She has been my cheerleader as I have had to take a lot of math classes to finally get to graduation.” Luce continued, “She told me to believe in myself and not to give up and it would eventually click. She was right, and I actually enjoy and look forward to my time doing math now.”
She has been able to share her experience at Asnuntuck with her daughter. “My daughter, Jessika Lin Gossett, and I were both honored at the Induction Ceremony, April 12, 2018, as Phi Theta Kappa members. That was an evening that I will never forget. She has since graduated from Asnuntuck and is now about to graduate with her BA. Prior to coming to Asnuntuck to earn her degree, she served ten years in the Marine Corps.”
Luce took advantage of other activities and programs offered at Asnuntuck. “I also enjoyed being part of the Women’s Leadership Program with Ann Gowdey and Sherry Paquette and all the other amazing women I had the honor of meeting and getting to know during a very hard year, “2020”. Being part of that experience made a very hard year more enjoyable.“
She reflected on the many triumphs and tragedies she has experienced in her life. “Over the time since I’ve started my degree at Asnuntuck, I have had many personal highs and lows. My children are my biggest accomplishment in life!” She explained, “My son, Ron, graduated from Eastern University with honors, earning his BA in Communications. This wasn’t an easy task for him due to being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, SMA, at the age of two-and-a-half. Even though he was in a wheelchair full time by the time he reached high school, he never let the chair dictate his destiny. After his college graduation, he entered the workforce and has become extremely successful in every position he has landed. He married his best friend, purchased a home and they have had two beautiful little girls together. My oldest daughter, Jessika, whom I mentioned earlier, married her best friend, also a ten-year Marine. The two of them met while stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC, and later moved to another base, Camp Pendleton in California where they had two beautiful children, a son, and a daughter. Finally, in 2016, they moved back to Connecticut to be close to us.” She continued, “My youngest daughter, Tiffany, graduated from high school in 2015, entered the workforce, also took a semester at Asnuntuck, then married her best friend, and also has had two beautiful daughters. I’ve been beyond blessed with six beautiful, healthy grandchildren!”
She has experienced somber times. “I’ve also had my share of tragedies while being a student here at Asnuntuck. We lost our oldest son, Tommy, in 2013. He will forever be twenty-eight years young. My mother was diagnosed with stage-four bone cancer three years ago, after being a 22-year breast cancer survivor. We lost my mother-in-law at the start of COVID, in March of 2020. My husband and I took my father-in-law, who is now 90 years old, in to live with us full-time. We are his full-time caregivers, on top of working full-time jobs. He’s been on an LVad due to advanced heart failure for the last nine years. Since coming to live with us in 2020, he is now on second life support, a pic line, that is keeping the other side of his damaged heart pumping properly.”
Luce joined fellow graduates on May 26th at Dunkin Donuts Park for Commencement. “My plans for the future are to continue to be the best example to my children and grandchildren. I want them to stay tenacious and continue to reach for the stars! Don’t let anything or anybody tell them what their future will or should be like.” She noted, “I’ve been working for EssilorLuxottica (high-end optical wear) for the past six years. I was promoted to Senior Manager of Training and Operations in 2018. Though I enjoy my current position of teaching and supporting our Project Management team, at times I feel I have yet to reach my final calling.”
She offers high praise and appreciation to her husband. “My greatest cheerleader is my better half of the last thirty-plus years. My husband, Thomas. He’s my rock. I would not have gotten to graduation without his support. He refuses to let me be negative in any way. I’ve wanted to give up at times and he always walks me off the ledge, supporting the time it takes for me to get the grades I want and earn this degree.”
To learn more about Asnuntuck visit www.asnuntuck.edu. The fall semester begins on August 29th.