By: Katherine Prull '19
Every student has a story to tell that makes her or his path to success different from peers. For BASW student, Melyssa Totten '19, her path wasn't a straight road to the finish line; in fact, it had many bumps and detours that taught her a lot along the way. For several years, Melyssa struggled with addiction. Understandably, this challenge became a roadblock that put attending school and receiving her degree on hold.
Now five years sober, Melyssa sees a clear path to earning her degree in social work, and she has her own experience of recovery to guide her along the way. Before coming to Rutgers, she was indecisive, bouncing between majors at community college and unsure about what the future might hold. Today, Melyssa is now on track to graduate in May of 2019 and is considering the Advanced Standing MSW program. She hopes to one day work in public policy.
"Rutgers showed me how capable I am," she says. "I learned so much about myself, especially that I can do anything I set my mind to. Being in recovery changes the way you see yourself and the world around you. I would never trade what I have now for what I had then."
Melyssa wants to set the record straight for people in a similar situation. She emphasizes the importance of not being discouraged about your journey being different and non-traditional. Instead, be thankful for the experience. Her advice to students in her shoes: "Take your time, be gracious with yourself, and give yourself the credit you deserve."
Although returning to school after a few setbacks was an extremely nerve-racking decision, it was also the most rewarding when she was able to turn around and see how far she's come. Melyssa's biggest motivation through all of this is her son, Luke. "I am now working towards providing a better future for both him and myself," she says.
Melyssa hopes her nonconventional path will shed light on the underrepresented students who may be going through this journey in the dark. "It's crucial to talk about the topic of addiction specifically within the college community," she says. "The very peers we sit next to in class may be going through something similar amongst themselves or with a loved one, and it's important to always have resources available for those individuals."
To learn about the resources available at Rutgers or to speak with someone on campus, please visit the Rutgers Counseling, Alcohol & Other Drug Assistance Program and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) page for more information.