M'lissa Griffith

M’Lissa Griffith is photographed in the studio for the ongoing Wolverine Stories project at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah Thursday, February 28, 2020. (Gabriel Mayberry/ UVU Marketing)

M’lissa Griffith had always dreamed of going to college.

Her educational journey was filled with hardships, sadness and grief — but that never stopped her from trying, again and again, to go to school. Utah Valley University gave Griffith the flexibility and support she needed to obtain her degree and finally fulfill her dream of gaining an education.

A dairy farm in Idaho was what Griffith and her seven siblings called home. After finishing her freshman year of high school, her family moved to Utah. While the difference was hard at first, Griffith claims it was a good learning experience for her. Upon graduating from high school, Griffith went straight to work in an effort to save money for her dream of getting a degree.

While working, Griffith met her eventual husband and got married. At the time, he was on an athletic scholarship which limited his ability to work — so Griffith continued working to help him get through school, figuring that one day her time to attend school would come.

The couple started their family and moved to Las Vegas, where Griffith enrolled at a university in the area and prepared to start her first semester, only to be met with an unbearable hardship.

“On the morning that classes were supposed to start, I miscarried our third child. I had two previous miscarriages before starting our family, but this one was particularly difficult emotionally,” she said.

In an effort to heal, Griffith put school on hold. Her family moved to Washington to accommodate her husband’s job. By that time, they had three children — and Griffith felt confident that she could go back to school.

She was attending her second semester when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. The remainder of the semester was all hands on deck as Griffith cared for her husband and children in between homework and class.

“By the end of the semester, everything seemed to be fine, so I continued on with my next semester of school when disaster struck once again. My husband was diagnosed with a second cancer unrelated to the first. The medical bills were piling up fast, and I found myself putting school on hold once more to go back to work.”

Time passed, and her husband’s cancer seemed to be at bay. The Griffiths moved to Utah permanently and began construction on a home. Knowing she wanted to finish her degree, she looked for universities to attend when she remembered her connection at Utah Valley University.

“I remembered when I had first visited the UVU (then UVSC) campus many years prior. I had a friend whose father was the dean of the business school, and I could easily recall the friendly environment of the university, and I loved the layout of the campus,” she said. “It felt like home the first day I walked through the doors of UVU. There was a special community feel to the university, and I knew that I could be successful there, which is why I chose to pursue my degree as a Wolverine.”

Griffith faced hardship during her second semester at UVU that would change her life forever. Her husband was murdered at work when a disgruntled former employee opened fire at the office. He put himself in the line of fire to protect his fellow coworkers.

Withdrawing from all her courses, Griffith decided to focus on her kids for a while. Through the heartache and sadness, she remembered how much her husband wanted her to pursue a degree and she decided to give school another chance. She structured her schedule around her children and went back to school part time after her youngest child started the first grade.

Utah Valley University provided Griffith with flexible scheduling and supportive staff who understood she needed support to get through her courses. The flexible educational format and constant support are what pushed Griffith along when she had to change her major and when her family endured additional health complications.

The journey of getting a diploma was a rough and rocky one for Griffith — but despite all of the years, time, effort, heartache and trials, she recently walked down the Hall of Flags and received her diploma. The dream had finally come full circle for the little girl from Idaho who had always dreamed of going to college.

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