Life after Graduation: What One PLU Grad Did Not Expect


Melissa Dunbar’s graduating class of 2014. Photo By: Joseph Dunbar, Father

Sitting in your chair, patiently waiting for your name to be called. Four long, hard, dedicating years have gone by. This is your moment, you’re finally graduating college with the degree you worked so hard for. Many would agree that graduation brings a lot of excitement.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for Pacific Lutheran graduate, Melissa Dunbar. Dunbar graduated with the class of 2011, she thought she had it all figured out but sadly reality hit, and it hit hard.

Dunbar always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She had a passion for helping children grow as individuals. Throughout school she was a camp counselor, and volunteered at the local elementary school that she had once attended.

As time went by, Dunbar had the opportunity of a lifetime. Dunbar’s senior year of college, she went to Namibia to student teach for two months with a group of her colleagues.


Melissa Dunbar teaching her 4th grade class in Namibia. Photo By: Brandi Hockman

Like everything else, that cost Dunbar additionally money. During the time, Dunbar wasn’t worried about student loans at the time. Dunbar knew once she graduated that should would find a teaching job and would be able to pay them off without a problem.

“I knew teachers didn’t get a huge salary, that never bugged me but that wasn’t the problem that I had,” Dunbar stated.
With 53% of college graduates either unemployed or underemployed, Dunbar was afriad that she was going to fall into that category.

Dunbar did everything right. She did well in school, got good grades and had great references. The issue with Dunbar was findng a permenant teaching job.

In the meantime, Dunbar took on multiple substituting jobs in the Auburn district as well as maintaining her current job at Costco.

Although Dunbar loves teaching the range of student’s while being a substitute teacher, she was struggling to keep her head above all her bills.

“With student loans piling up, along with all my other bills, and having to work at Costco too, I became overwhelmed,” admitted Dunbar.

Working two jobs and commuting more than 80 miles a day wasn’t ideal for Dunbar. This led her to the decision that she is living in now.

Cyndi Ricks

Melissa Dunbar working at her current job, Costco. Always positive and has a smile on her face. Photo By: Cyndi Ricks

Dunbar had to quit excepting subbing jobs for two reasons. One, Dunbar’s drive was almost 80 miles round trip, and secondly the subbing jobs weren’t consistant, missing out on work at Dunbar’s other job.

“It’s crazy to me to that Melissa isn’t a teacher currently. She is absolutely amazing at what she does,” fellow colleague, Brandi Hockman stated.

While some people maybe dissapointed in Dunbar with postponing her teaching, Dunbar knows what her priorties need to be right now.

“I’m not giving up, no not at all. I’m just trying to get through with paying off my loans,” confessed Dunbar.

Just because one may or may not have a job right away after college, don’t be discouraged.

People will get through with whatever situation they may be in, either that be lack of jobs for your degree or like Dunbar you’re just trying to focus on paying your student loans off.

One thing Dunbar mentioned was that, “I’m not giving up. In life my mother had always taught me, to not give up. But if I could do it all over again, I would of applied to more scholarships and grants that PLU offered.”

Whether you’re about to graduate or you’re still in school, things may not always go as planned, but if you have patience and use all the resources that you can, you’ll go as far as you push yourself.




Categories: Academics, Other, Profiles, Student Life

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