By Terri Finch Hamilton
Adapted from Centralight Fall 2020
Melissa Quist spent 30 years tucking tiny feet into boots and putting away crayons as a preschool teacher.
The little ones are adorable, but she wanted more.
Quist dreamed of a career as a therapist, maybe opening her own office one day. That would take a master's degree, and she was a newly divorced single mom needing to work full time.
Central Michigan University's Global Campus was the answer.
“At my stage of life, I wanted more than a job. I wanted a career.” — Melissa Quist
Quist earned her master's degree in counseling in 2017, attending classes one weekend a month at the CMU campus in Grand Rapids and doing the rest of her coursework online.
"It was the perfect setup for me," said Quist, now a mental health therapist at Community Mental Health in Lansing, Michigan.
Instructors were available whenever she needed help, and she bonded with her small group of weekend classmates.
"It was like a little family," she said, "like being with a group of friends.
"At my stage of life, I wanted more than a job," Quist said. "I wanted a career. I want to work toward having my own office practice one day."
Today, she helps people in mental health crisis at Community Mental Health and leads two groups of people struggling with substance abuse for another agency.
"I like working with people in crisis and finding something helpful for them," Quist said. "Navigating the mental health system isn't easy.
They're so grateful to know what their next step should be. "Sometimes it's just about validating someone who's struggling."
Earning her master's degree opened up a slew of career possibilities, Quist said. She might draw on her old preschool skills and pursue a career in play therapy.
"Now, the possibilities are endless," she said. "There are so many certifications I can pursue. I feel like I'll always be learning."