One Courageous Step Changed His Life
Michael Nuccio, 30 graduated from Mesa Community College (MCC) with a 4.0 grade point average and scholarships covering tuition to attend Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University (ASU), in the fall.
This is an admirable accomplishment, especially for a man who until recently had no formal education past the first grade. In 2013, nearly two decades after leaving the public school system to travel the Pacific Northwest and be home schooled by his musician parents, Michael pursued his General Education Diploma (GED). “I actually spent most of my time playing video games and felt very isolated,” Michael recalls of what would have been his elementary school years.
He lived with the dilemma of wanting to go back to school and worrying about his parent’s safety, knowing if anyone knew he wasn’t receiving an education, it would add legalities to the financial burdens the family already faced.
When he was about 12 years old, the family moved to Arizona where his father’s new job helped stabilize the family’s financial situation. A few years later Michael realized others his age would be graduating from high school and getting jobs.
Knowing math was a cornerstone to many careers Michael turned to educational computer programs to start learning, completing third grade through algebra within a year. For a while things appeared to be turning around, then his mother developed a chronic health condition and his father started forgetting lyrics he’d been singing for years.
Using his self-taught knowledge of computers and electronics, Michael reinvented the digital system his parents relied on during musical performances to include a program to scroll lyrics to help his father’s failing memory.
In survival mode this ‘tech/roadie’ phase continued until he was 26 years old. As his mother’s condition improved, his father’s declined. Eventually his father became eligible for medical assistance and his mother received caregiver compensation. For the first time, the family was financially stable and Michael’s ‘tech/roadie’ phase ended.
In February 2013, after researching online for the best General Education diploma (GED)/High School Equivalency (HSE) preparation courses, Michael enrolled at MCC. Midway through the GED program faculty member Lysa Cohen informed Michael he was turning in graduate level work and encouraged him to pursue college.
Michael recalls, “College wasn’t part of the plan. I wanted to get my GED and find a job working as an electrician’s assistant, work that was similar to my roadie duties.”
Dwayne McIntosh, an MCC student services specialist helped Michael complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA), including overcoming inherent barriers. Michael selected a course of study to become a screenwriter. He says it was a required science credit that transformed his life and his plans for the future.
Physics 101 with Dr. Jim Corkins, who now teaches at Phoenix College, sparked not only Michael’s interest in science but in social interaction. Corkins quickly became Michael’s mentor and role model, helping him develop self-confidence while learning about the observable universe.
Michael changed his major and took all the science courses he could at MCC, carrying a 4.0 and graduating with 85 credits and an Associate in Science and an Associate in Arts degrees. “I didn’t have a single bad experience with the instructors. The Maricopa-ASU Pathway Program (MAPP) helped to ensure all the necessary courses would transfer to Arizona State University,” said Michael.
A required communications course also opened doors for Michael. He was voted the best speaker by his classmates, something he said he could have never imagined given his years of isolation. During his 3.5 years at MCC, Michael participated in, and received support from, the MCC Honors Program. “Everyone at MCC helped me develop as a person. I felt I couldn’t give up or the tremendous gifts they gave me would go to waste,” said Michael.
When asked what at MCC made the most difference for him, Michael said it emphatically was the personal experience on campus. Of MCC Michael commented, “I made my first friends here. I find found myself here. It’s hard to leave. My ‘pie in the sky’ goal is to research nuclear fusion energy resources to aid society.”