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For one alumna, obstacles provided a calling

Life has a way of derailing the best of plans. But for those who possess the right combination of persistence, vision, and hope—i.e., personal resilience—it’s possible to get the train back on track.

Michelle Nobles was 19 years old and on her way to college in Florida with a basketball scholarship when she discovered she was pregnant. The father joined the Army, disappeared from the scene, and left Nobles to raise the child on her own. So instead of campus life and a taste of athletic glory, she put her dreams on the shelf, rented an apartment in Brockton, Massachusetts, and took a job as a cashier in a pet store.

It was a tough life, but it got tougher. Hear it in her own words.

A few years later, her son was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and she had to trade her steady job in the finance industry for the flexible hours of a waitress and bartender.

Life began to look brighter when she met her husband. They bought a house together and invited his mother and his 15-year-old twin siblings to live with them.

That’s when tragedy struck a third time.

“My husband’s brother started seeing things and talking to people who weren’t there,” says Nobles.

The boy was hospitalized, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and has been in and out of hospitals and halfway houses ever since.

“Mental health issues are the norm in our house,” says Nobles. “My husband and I live our lives to make sure that the next generation gets the help and the schooling they need.”

At last, a light

From age 19 until her mid-30s, Nobles didn’t have many opportunities to think about herself. But that changed in 2014, when she received two donor-funded Northeastern scholarships—a Lowell Scholarship and the Patricia Taylor Scholarship—that made it possible to begin classes. Now, at age 38, with the help of the university’s Empower fundraising campaign, she’s halfway through her undergraduate degree in healthcare management.

For Nobles, CPS’21, studying has become an island of calm—a private space where she can achieve her college dream and think about how to use that degree to make the world a better place.

“I’ve become one of those geeks who would go to college for the rest of my life if I could,” she says. “It gives me hope and a way to harness some of my positive energy. I’ve put myself on the back burner for so long. It’s done wonders for my psyche to be able to invest in myself a little.”

Her ultimate plan is to combine her personal struggle with her studies by earning a master’s degree in healthcare policy or law.

“I want to improve lives, and not just the lives of myself and my own family,” she says. “I went back to school because I had seen how much help this realm of healthcare needs. I know how much it means to parents to get the help their child needs. I want to dig in deep and really make a difference for families that have gone through what I’ve gone through.”