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Melanie Leamon poses at UCHealth in her nurse uniform.
Melanie is an independent, determined, and straightforward mother of two daughters, ages 22 and 11. Thanks to the support of United Way’s WomenGive program and United Way partner organization Project Self-Sufficiency, she graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 2014 as a registered nurse with a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. She now works at UCHealth, the culmination of an 8-year battle to overcome drug addiction, raise her daughters alone, and finish her education.
Melanie had an impoverished childhood and struggled during young adulthood. She grew up in a small town, raised by a single mother of two, like herself, who fought daily to make ends meet. Melanie began using recreational drugs at the age of 13, and became a teen mother at 17. She relinquished her daughter to the care of her mother, and continued to battle with addiction for the next 11 years. She had a second daughter in 2005, whom she credits for her sobriety, and waitressed to support them. Melanie has been drug-free ever since.
She wanted to go back to college to become a nurse, but couldn’t afford childcare. In 2009, she learned about Project Self-Sufficiency, a United Way partner dedicated to helping low income, single parents finish their educations and become self-sufficient.
After a waiting period and orientation. She was helped by a private donor and moved into affordable housing. She was also awarded a scholarship through Women’s Independence Scholarship Program, Inc., in part due to referrals from Project Self-Sufficiency.
Project Self-Sufficiency advisor Bethany introduced her to WomenGive, a dynamic network of members who help women achieve economic independence through childcare scholarships that allow them to finish their educations.
Melanie received lots of support from Project Self-Sufficiency and WomenGive, including access to emergency funds, sponsorship referrals, financial aid, scholarships, and high-quality childcare. Just as meaningful, WomenGive provided gifts for herself and the girls each Christmas, relieving her of the yearly guilt and worry of how she was going to afford them. Every year she would cry as she picked up her presents, giving thanks to WomenGive and their generosity.
One year her car broke down, requiring extensive repairs. She applied for WomenGive emergency funds, which covered part of the repair bill. She also received hand-written notes and messages from members, telling her how proud they were and giving her vital encouragement to work even harder toward her goals.
After graduation, Melanie began working at a rehab center as a first step into a hospital setting, and then transitioned into nursing full-time at Medical Center of the Rockies in 2016. She learns something new every day from her co-workers and especially her patients. Melanie says, “I’m able to find hope in every situation and believe everyone should have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
All told, Melanie received over $30,000 in education and childcare assistance, and additional support in the form of donations, gifts, and services. She’s especially grateful because her education would not have been possible without support from United Way and its partners.
Her goal now is to become an ICU or ER nurse, or even a flight nurse. She appreciates the opportunity to tell her story in the hope of inspiring others who need help. She’s proud of where she is: a former addict and teen mom who is now a successful nurse who helps others and saves lives. Her parting thought: “Anyone can be great, despite a bad past.”
Copyright 2015 United Way of Larimer County