For a while, Melonie Townes of Brandon was living out the prediction of a high school biology teacher who told her she’d be the first in the class to get pregnant, work at a hamburger joint and not make anything of herself.
The only thing the teacher got wrong was that Townes worked at Sonic instead of McDonald’s. But now at age 23, Townes is proof that not all predictions come true.
With the help of Hinds Community College and the Student Nurses Organization Foundation Scholarship, Townes has upended that prediction and changed her life path.
Townes is graduating from the Associate Degree Nursing program on Thursday, Dec. 13 in a ceremony at the Muse Center on the Rankin Campus in Pearl. Hinds has three graduation ceremonies, at 9 a.m. for nursing and allied health graduates; noon, academic and career graduates whose last names begin with A-K and 3 p.m. for graduates whose last names begin with L-Z. Townes attended classes at Hinds’ Jackson Campus-Nursing/Allied Health Center.
“One important value of mine has always been perseverance – that no matter who tells you you can’t do it, no matter how many people talk down to you, whatever your circumstances may be, you can do whate
ver you put your mind to,” she said.
But she has lived through some dark days to get to where she is now. A few years ago, she wasn’t on speaking terms with her mother; her dad wasn’t in the picture at all.
“I didn’t have anybody to push me to go to school and be successful, or tell me the importance of graduating with a degree,” she said. “I made some bad decisions, and I ended up failing my first semester in college.
“And, then I wound up getting pregnant,” Townes said. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get much worse, she totaled her car.
“It was when I was at the lowest point in my life, I had to call my mom. She was the only person who would take me at that time because I was pregnant. And I dreaded it. We hadn’t talked in about a year,” she recalled. “She had to get off work to come get me. I remember her taking me to her work at a nursing home.”
That turned out to be the life-changing moment that Townes needed. She found herself impressed by what she saw at the nursing home.
“That was my first time being around nurses and seeing what kind of care they give. It was just amazing to see how the nurses took care of the residents. How they were there for them, how they supported them, how they tried to comfort them no matter what they went through,” Townes said. “And I knew at that moment that was something I wanted to do.”
She had to take two classes over the summer to complete the prerequisites to get into Hinds’ nursing program.
And, by this time, she had a newborn daughter, Chloe.
“I worked in the morning from about 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., got off, saw my baby for an hour and then went to class from about 5:15 p.m. to about 10 or 11,” she said. “And, of course, you don’t sleep when you have a newborn.
“There were many times I cried myself to sleep. I wanted to give up. I wanted to stop but I had to realize it wasn’t just for me. It was for my daughter.”
Now Chloe is three, and Townes’ Hinds journey is nearly finished. Because of the Hinds Foundation scholarship she received, she is in a better financial position to continue her education after graduation on Dec. 13.
She appreciates the donors who make scholarships possible for students like her.
“Without them, some of us wouldn’t be able to go to school,” she said. “Without them, my education wouldn’t be possible.”
As Mississippi’s largest community college, Hinds Community College is a comprehensive institution offering quality, affordable educational opportunities with academic programs of study leading to seamless university transfer and career and technical programs teaching job-ready skills. With six locations in central Mississippi, Hinds enrolls about 12,000 students each fall semester. To learn more, visit www.hindscc.edu or call 1.800.HindsCC.
Editor’s Note: A version of this story was published in the winter 2018-2019 issue of Hindsight alumni magazine.