Couple get an education in perseverance

Last fall, Alex Lopez and his wife, Melissa Manhong, walked down the aisle for the second time – but they weren’t renewing their vows.

The couple were taking part in Palm Beach Atlantic University’s (PBAU) fall graduation ceremony, and although they didn't get to walk hand in hand, they did get to celebrate  the fulfillment of a dream that took nearly a decade.

The 2008 recession derailed Alex’s plans for a bachelor's degree when he lost his job, but he remained steadfast in his desire to return to PBAU, where he had spent a year. In fact, he urged Melissa to pursue her degree at PBAU, despite the challenges of balancing study time with care for their two children, who were 8 and 5 years old at the time.

Watching her succeed prompted Alex to join her at the university, and the pair ended up graduating together with degrees in organizational management.

Both Alex, an Air Force reservist, and Melissa currently work for the city of West Palm Beach. Melissa is an administrative assistant and Alex is a code enforcement officer.

But they both also have their sights on something more.

Melissa said she is considering going into anesthesiology, while Alex said he hopes to complete a master's degree and perhaps pursue a teaching career at PBAU, as a way to give back to a place that gave him more than an education.

“It makes you a stronger person," he said of his experience. "Rather than feeling ordinary, you feel extraordinary.”

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Palm Beach Atlantic University

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