Commencement speaker advises peers to use resources, let nothing stand in the way of success
Choosing the right major is a critical part of being in college. There’s a lot riding on finding the course of study you’re truly passionate about, and many college students don’t get it right the first time. Melissa Loera started out her college career as a biology major. It took just one lecture from a history professor to get her to change her mind and career vision.
Now a commencement speaker for the fall Class of 2022 at University of Houston-Clear Lake, Loera says she found her passion after listening to that lecture. “That was when I was at San Jacinto College, before transferring to UH-Clear Lake. After that class, I went to advising and switched my major,” she said. “That was some lecture! It was about slave revolts. I'll never forget it because it had to do with the passionate way in which it was taught. I was so invested in that class. At the time, it was the only class in which I was doing well.”
Loera, a first-generation college student, said she’d faced financial and personal challenges when she began her college courses at San Jacinto. “No one told me not to take seven classes in one semester,” she said. “Except for that history class, I didn’t do well. I decided college wasn’t for me. I said I wanted to see the world. I needed structure, so I joined the Navy.”
Three years later, she exited the Navy. Feeling more focused, she decided to complete her degree at San Jacinto. “I had to retake a lot of classes, but this time, I didn’t have the financial worries. I had gotten married and I felt more structured,” she said. “I knew that after being in the Navy, I was more stable and capable.”
She kept that life-changing lecture in mind and decided to stay with her history major. “I did well that first semester at San Jacinto, and I got on the Dean’s List and stayed there till I graduated,” she said. “I got a great foundation. I transferred to UHCL and I loved it. I love the community feeling at UHCL; it’s a university, but it feels very personal. I love my professors and I have developed a lot of lasting relationships here.”
Despite some significant setbacks—especially the sudden death of her father, just three days before she enrolled at UHCL, Loera said that moving forward despite everything is critical.
“I had just recovered from COVID when my dad suddenly died, but even through that was really hard and I was very sad, I didn’t want anyone to think I was using that as an excuse not to do well,” she said.
During her time at UHCL, Loera said she joined Student Government, served as senator for the College of Human Sciences and Humanities, and volunteered as an orientation leader for incoming students. Now that she has her Bachelor of Arts in History, her likely next step is to apply for law school.
She has lots of good advice for students in her position at UHCL. “I would tell incoming students that it’s important to get yourself in the right mental state for school,” she said. “There are so many resources at your disposal. Take advantage of financial aid and scholarships. It’s OK to ask for help, most professors are very supportive. Use your resources and don’t let anything hold you back.”
For more information about UHCL's History program in the College of Human Sciences and Humanities, go online.