Celebrating our Students

Posted on: January 31, 2013

At JIU, we are committed to supporting the success of our students.  Our students hail from many states, countries, and work-life backgrounds.  We are inspired on a daily basis by success stories from our students.  Pursuing a degree is a challenge for any individual, but many of our JIU students have overcome incredible hurdles to achieve their goals.  This month we’ll share some of our students' stories.  They are an inspiration to the JIU staff and we hope they will inspire other JIU students to keep striving towards their goals! 

JIU Student Story:  Meet Nick C. Cicchino, MABC

This is a story that normally ends with suffering, agony, depression, low self-esteem, and family dysfunctionalism to name just a few.  This is my story of how my four little children and I witnessed the untimely death of their mother, my wife Donna Lee.  Yes it happened almost 20 years ago on September 13, 1992 but losing a mother of 4 young kids ages 9,7,5,& 3 at that time and leaving my a widower at age 36 years of age was not what anyone would have predicted.  Especially to witness your soul-mate and wife loss her life while a passenger in a two-seater plane is something most people could never get over.  Fortunately for me I had four young children that needed me more than ever before. 

So after mourning the loss of my wife and mother of our four kids for almost one year, I decided I needed to do something that was going to 1) allow me to make more money because I had lost income when my wife passed (she was a LPN); 2) I needed to do something to make me feel that my life was worth living for (besides being a parent of 4); and 3) I needed a piece of paper called a college degree if I was going to “move up” any corporate ladders.  So after two years of piecing our lives back together the best we could, I decided to enroll in the local community college for two years and get my associate degree.  From the very beginning I felt something I had not felt in over two years……alive inside.  I held every student leadership position you can think of and more.  I also played on the Men’s Baseball team as the starting left-fielder (the oldest baseball player in America at the time) and my GPA was an honorable 3.75.  Doing all of this full-time while working 30 hours a week while raising 4 young kids. 

Than after graduating in 1996 with my A.A.S. in Legal Studies as well as my Paralegal Certificate, I received a partial scholarship to attend a local 4 year college: Centenary College.   That was part of my initial plan when I first started out, to get my bachelor’s degree in business.  So, like I did at the community college level I also got involved at Centenary.  The positions I held were college newspaper writer and contributor to advertising manager of that same paper. I also was the Captain of the Men’s Golf Team (also the oldest active college golfer in the country).  In May 1998 I realized a lifelong dream….to graduate college with my Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management.    

During this time I still was the proud father of four great heartbroken kids on the mend.  Still had to take the boys to football practices as well as take my daughters to either choir or play practice.  There was always something going on related to their schools or mine.  Now as a college graduate at the ripe age of almost 42, I began to send out my newly updated resume and proceed with as many interviews as I could get.  Unfortunately in 1998, the economy in New Jersey was shaky but I stayed optimistic.  Well after 6 months of interviews and sending out hundreds of emails, job postings, employment sites, networking meetings, social medias, phone calls, you name it I did it….no job offers.  So I decided that since I had a strong sales background and made friends easily and could build strong relationships I decided to look for something that would afford the time needed to be a good parent to my kids, but also allow me an opportunity to make the money to survive and provide for them. 

The decision I made (for better or worse) was to get into real estate.  Big ticket items with honorable commission structures, plus equally as important…..it would allow me the time I would need and flexibility I needed to do the right things for my children.  Then I enrolled in a 6 month real estate licensing class, and completed the course in one month.  I waited for the next state exam to take to become a licensed Realtor.  Took the state exam and failed by 5 points.  Now I had to wait by law for 90 days before re-testing.  When the time came for the test my second time I took the test, once again I failed the test.  This time I failed by one point.  Now, I was devastated worrying about how am I going to get into this industry that I know I would do well in.  Once again waited 90 days and took the test the first date available.  Now I was taking the state exam a third time.  It got to the point that even the state employees recognized me when I arrived at the test site.  They were all hoping that this time would be the time I get my state license.  Well, finally on the third attempt I passed.  This time I passed with a perfect score.  From 1999- 2008 I worked as a licensed Realtor for Century 21 realtors. 

Now without a job, no money I was forced to go on state welfare.  At this time I only had one kid left at home.  So from November 2008 to September 2009 I was deciding what I was going to do. Than after many nights on the computer surfing for colleges, I came across JIU’s website.  It was then that I decided to attend JIU and go for something that NO ONE in my entire family had ever achieved: a Master degree.

In October 2009 I was admitted to JIU but under a conditional basis.  So when I started at JIU I was told that I needed at least a B grade or better in my first class or I would be dropped from school.  Here I was enrolled in Graduate school.  Something that I was brought up to believe was for the smart people and those with financial resources.  Well, I jumped into my new adventure and class like a kid just returning from summer.  I was excited, focused and determined that I would everything and anything (legally) to get that B grade or better.  I turned in my work on time if not sooner; I posted to everyone and not the minimum requirements of just two fellow students.  I lead conversations in class via posts all the time.  Than it was grade posting time.  As I looked at my grade on my computer I was stunned….a earned an A.  Then I received a letter from JIU stating that I was no longer considered a “conditional” student.  Great news.  From that point on I found myself in constant dialogue with my professor and fellow students.  Loving every minute of it.  I was on my JIU student portal twice a day almost every day of the week.  I was not only surviving at graduate school, I was thriving.  Finally when it was only said and done with I had earned 11 A grades and 1B grade while earning a 3.925 overall GPA.  Graduating December 2011 with Highest Honors with my M.A.B.C.

Today its February 25, 2012 I found myself back at JIU studying for a ‘post-graduate’ certificate.  JIU has given me, shown me, and allowed me to become the person I was always destined to be: a sage leader in the classroom as well as in life.  Not bad considering I started graduate school at age 53 on welfare and I’m now 55 with my Master degree looking to start my own consulting business/life coaching firm.

In closing, I will say that not only has JIU helped me improve my intellect level and knowledge base it also allowed me to prove to myself that with dedication, devotion, and discipline anything is possible.  I know, I’ve overcome the most insurmountable odds anyone one person could have against them…….and won.