Melissa DiVietri

I have always been very excited to continue giving back to students who want to listen. I enjoy talking to students about entrepreneurship and how to reach their goals. Each week, I’ve been going to different schools to motivate students to follow their dreams. I particularly focus on the low income – class C or class D schools; they are classified by class size and funding. I went to a low income school of only 90 students in my class size. We didn’t have advanced AP classes & our only international language was Spanish. Opportunity was limited – okay?

But I get it.. I still know the feeling

I know what it feels like to come from a city that doesn’t have many opportunities for growth. There are limited opportunities to network, open a business or even hang out anywhere. I understand how easy it is to get into trouble and screw up your entire future.

I went from being a trouble maker “who though she knew everything” to skipping high school to do bad things, suspended once for stealing and became a low life that had a DUI at age 17. I HAD TO GET OUT. I was crying to be somebody. I wasn’t hanging out with the right crowd because they all had records too. I couldn’t get into any school because of my record. I had to pay all kinds of court fees, go to therapy, counseling and special classes because of my one mistake. The worst part was losing my license – my parents had to drive me everywhere just to get around. After I paid everything off in a 6 month period– yes I worked my butt off; I had to go in front of the judge again to beg for the charges to be dropped because I couldn’t get financial aid or a real job.

I was working at Consumer’s Energy in the telemarketing department as the person who called you to say, “we are shutting your power off for non payment,” all for $5.15 per hour. I was unhappy; nothing was going my way – this was the only job that I could get because of my record. I lasted 3 weeks at this job before it tore my heart up after every call I made.. the stories were so sad – people had real struggles. Husband left him, son died in Iraq, got cancer, my kids are sick.. My heart couldn’t take the emotion that I had to hear – and I was being recorded on the phone so I couldn’t even say that I was sorry – it hurt so bad.

The Low Point

When I hit rock bottom in high school; that’s when things started happening for me. I had to go to that place to get to this place where I am today. I’m not embarrassed by my past; if anything – I am embracing every obstacle that I’ve overcome from getting into trouble. I had to face life – I had to deal with my consequences; I made the bed so now I have to lay in it. I think that’s the saying.

Success comes with risks

I took a lot of risks by moving out at 18 years old. I didn’t have a secure job because I was freelancing for a web / eCommerce company in Brighton. It wasn’t stable because the company had a fast turnaround rate but I needed something. I met the owner at a night club in Ann Arbor – I saw opportunity to leave & I jumped on it.. even without knowing much about the person or the business. I was new to the Brighton area so it was hard to make friends at first. I dated the first guy that I met through work friends; we ended up dating for almost 3 years. He was a great person but I was a lot to handle – too much I think. I also met my best friend, Laura here. We are still growing strong & she motivates me everyday. Not to announce her business; but her mom has a lot of similarities like my health so we understand each other on a more personable level. I have a lot of respect for her entire family because they feel the same emotions; they deal with the same insurance/health/prescription issues… It’s nice to not feel alone– and when I met her; I knew. She would be by my side forever. But nothing lasts forever.. and I was becoming unhappy in Brighton; my relationship was crumbly – I had issues at the office… I had to get out (again).

Keep moving forward – no matter what

I was ready to leave Brighton so I had to get a back up plan. I applied to Ferris State University for the printing program. I also knew that I would be in this program because I was in the Graphic Communications program in high school. I was denied entry into FSU because of my GPA – it was a low 1.9GPA. But to my defense; I was taking classes right out of high school at age 18. I dropped out for a life-changing surgery that put me on bed rest with a traveling nurse from Ann Arbor for 9 weeks. Yes – 9 weeks.. for those of you who know me, this killed me. I was unhappy being in bed.. Trying to get back on my feet; it wasn’t exactly what I expected. My nurse came from Ann Arbor almost every single day to provide the treatments so I could be at the comfort of my home. I had a low GPA because Jackson Community College would not allow me to withdraw for my medical needs because it wasn’t in the time frame of the drop / add period. I arranged a meeting with Jackson community college to ask for a “pass” – I collected multiple letters of recommendations, award certifications and a portfolio to show my worthiness.

I had to meet with the university office at Ferris State University to explain my record as a young adult and that I wanted to change my life for the better. I literally jumped through hoops of fire just to get into school.. it was the hardest moments of my life. This was a testing point… I could feel it. Once I finally got accepted into Ferris State; I was going to have to figure everything out all over again. I didn’t have any friends; I was 3 hours away from home and I was a girl on a mission with a dream to do BIG things.

Low income student’s lives changed forever

Let me tell you about how I changed Ferris State University & the State of Michigan forever. Upon my appeal to applying to Ferris State University; I became very close to the Student Life office. I was finally accepted into FSU on terms of probation for a year. If I dropped below a certain GPA; I would be removed from the university.

Well.. cough. The president of FSU, Dave Eisler got ahold of my struggle to get into school, coming from a troubled past and a low income family. He reached out to me to speak at the capitol on behalf of all troubled students in Michigan.

click here to read my story.
click here to read my story.

The TIP Program

TIP – Tuition Incentive Program; a scholarship for low-income students to have the opportunity of 2 years of college for free. I spoke about my story, about my struggle, about my need to change my life. I cried, marched and protested – this was the changing moment of my life.. and the life of low income students in Michigan. If I didnt get the scholarship reinstated; I would be back to where I started — square one. The scholarship was on the verge of being cut from the budget forever. I put my entire heart into my speeches — I appeared 2 xs at the Capitol in Lansing. This moment— was bliss.

Melissa DiVietri, a print management student that benefits from the TIP said, “The TIP scholarship is important for my education because it adds to my forms of financial aid and helps cover most of my tuition.” Source FERRIS STATE NEWSPAPER

Ferris President Addresses State Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee

tuition incentive program

If you want to read my story, go to this link: http://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/administration/president/presentations/2009-2010/docs/HouseTIPTestimony2010.pdf

I DID IT. I saved the scholarship. Now students all over Michigan can go to school for 2 years and get out of their troubled past to make a better future. It was a second chance at life and I wasn’t going to take it for granted.

Special Speech

During my commencement of my first degree- my engineering degree from Ferris STate University. Before the ceremony begins, the presidents talks about two students with special stories that changed everything. YOu guessed it; he talked about my bravery – my story.. to the entire gymnasium – the highest level of recognition that you could receive from a president while the entire school is watching you. He asked my family to stand up – everyone clapped. It was … the greatest feeling in the world to know that I came from the gutter and I am rising up.

Here we are — fast forward 7 years.. The Tuition Incentive Program is still in effect – students are benefiting from 2 years of tuition free. I travel to universities and high schools all over the State of Michigan to motivate students to dream big.

You have to start somewhere…

Now that you know that I was not always perfect, does that change your outlook on me?

This is my opportunity to give back to students about the real life struggles you have to face in order to become a better person. Life isnt fair.. but if you start somewhere, learn, grow and build from it- YOu will be a successful person. There are ups & downs for everything but if you stick it out – life has it’s rewards. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions! Im here to be your mentor.

Melissa DiVietri

How I Saved The Tuition Incentive Program: