Alicia Melley: A Single Mother’s Story of Success

Alicia Melley and son
Alicia Melley and son. Alicia is the recipient of the Lee Ensel Scholarship in Pre-Law.

When she was eight years old, Alicia Melley heard her grandmother predict that Alicia would be an attorney—and she believed her.

Four years later, Alicia lost this beloved grandmother to a senseless act of violence. In the following months, Alicia learned more than she wanted to about probable cause, the difference between first- and second-degree murder, public defenders and sentencing hearings, but none of that discouraged her from wanting to fulfill her grandmother’s prediction.

“I applied my anger and confusion into learning everything I could about the law and criminal justice,” she says, “because I became determined to become part of something bigger than myself.”

By 21, Alicia had another, even more powerful motivation for attending law school: a baby boy that she would raise as a single mother. Finishing her associate’s degree in criminal justice with a brand new baby became the hardest thing she ever did, but at graduation, she could look out from the stage at her tiny, mighty motivator, “wearing the world’s biggest grin,” and know it was all worth it.

At that point, she says, “I knew I had to keep the momentum moving forward.”

So she signed up for paralegal classes, during which she interacted with many law professionals and soon gained employment at a law firm. This confirmed her ambitions.

She then took the next big step and enrolled in the political science bachelor degree program at UIS as an online student.

“It had to be online because I am a single mom and work full time. Taking a break from work to go to school on campus was not an option. So I started researching accredited and good schools that would offer what I needed and I ended up enrolling at UIS.”

She deeply appreciates the efforts UIS takes to help online students succeed. “If it were not for this program offered through UIS, I am not sure that I would have been able to take the steps needed to prepare for law school. UIS offered me an affordable and realistic option when I was trying to determine how to reach my goals. I will be forever thankful for the opportunity I was given as an online student at UIS.”

The program has been challenging—especially fitting in work, time with her son and classwork. “The days are long and the work is hard,” she says, “but when I walk at graduation, I will be there with my son and my family. I hope I can be an inspiration to people who think they just can’t do it. We are capable of far more than we know!”