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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

TCC graduate shares life challenges with WINR group

By James Russell/reporter

Although she said she was nervous speaking in front of crowds, Melissa Bates talked Sept. 11 about her journey from a four-year stint of homelessness to her graduation from TCC this spring.

Speaking to 98 people attending the monthly Women in New Roles Network meeting at Billy Miner’s restaurant in downtown Fort Worth, Bates spoke about her life with no hesitation.

After graduating from Fort Worth Eastern Hills High School in 1998, she took time off before enrolling in college. What she did not expect was living at home and caring for her sick mother for the next six years.

Although she said her life was not easy, she had a home, a paying job taking care of her mother and, soon, a girlfriend named Sally.

By the fall of 2004, Bates was engaged to Sally. Yet around that time, her mother was facing imminent death. But Bates said her life was nowhere as bad as what was to come.

Then came two life-changing events. First, on Oct. 26, 2004, her mother died. Then, on Oct. 28, she found out that Sally was cheating on her.

By December 2004, she had lost everything. In three months’ time, Bates said, she lost her way of life.

After selling her house, Bates stayed with friends and family. For the next year, she looked for a job but was unsuccessful. She then enrolled on South Campus for the first time in 2005, staying until 2006.

After attempting suicide, she returned to a family friend’s home. That day, he gave her $8, told her to get on the bus and go to a homeless shelter.

“I hold no hard feelings toward him,” she said of the friend with whom she is still close. “I still love him.”

In 2006, Bates became homeless.

She started out at the Presbyterian Night Shelter but was barred after three months “for an accident,” as she put it. She then went to the Union Gospel Mission.

There, a job in the soup kitchen led her to learn about the TCC’s Visions Unlimited program, which helps the homeless gain access to college.

Enrolling in spring 2008, she said she was transformed by her time on South Campus. She majored in English, helped found the English honors society, Sigma Kappa Delta, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

During the May commencement, she was lauded by Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley in her address.

“I’m famous, and it feels odd for me,” Bates said.

To Triesha Light, South Campus psychology associate professor and WINR coordinator, Bates’ success is no surprise.

“She gobbled up everything” at TCC, Light said.

While now a student at Texas Wesleyan University, where she works on the campus newspaper The Rambler and joked that she “threatens to kill her editor-in-chief five times a day,” she said her life has had challenges, but they have been challenges she welcomes.

“Sometimes, you have to go through the hardest things in life to reach the best thing in life,” she said.

And she credits every bad moment along the way for getting her to where she is now.

“If it wasn’t for my mother dying,” she says frankly, “I’d still be at home, taking care of her.”

Bates said it just took stubbornness and determination to get through the bad times.

For the audience, that in itself was inspiring.

“It was a blessing to hear her speak,” said South Campus student John Burks, who also was homeless.

The once self-described bad student, Bates said she now loves school so much that she wants to attend Texas A&M for her master’s degree — following in the footsteps of her grandfather.

“I always wanted to be an Aggie,” she said.

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