This story is reprinted from The Fresno State Alumni Association as written by Elisa Navarro. Originally published in the July 2016 issue of the Fresno State Alumni Association Newsletter.

“I was four and I still remember stuff…we left in the middle of the night from Oakland to get away from my dad. My mom was terrified and almost didn’t leave but my grandmother just said, ‘I’m moving to Fresno and I’m taking the grandkids…you can come or not.’ My mom decided to come. And I remember all of that…I still remember the drive to Fresno.”

Lisa Nichols (1998) has been living in Fresno ever since the night her grandmother drove her family away from the life of domestic violence they endured every day, and in 2014 she began working as an administrator at Gaston Middle School — a job she loves, which allows her to motivate kids every day.

Photo Credit: Lisa Nichols – Lisa (Far right)

As an administrator Nichols helps create school policies, educative social skills lessons, support groups, teaches lessons about bullying and many more things that allow her to help the school one way or the other. She also is able to mentor and counsel students, in order to help them find themselves whenever they are struggling through school or even life difficulties.

“The West Fresno area is a different community, so I am able to help different students and mentoring them is the best,” Nichols said. “My principal has let me be the advisor of a new club, so I can now mentor that club after school.”

Black Student Union is the club that Nichols has been an advisor of for two years and where she is able to guide students and help them succeed in any way she can, just like her grandmother was always there for her every single day of her life.

“[In kindergarten] I had a speech impediment and I was just kind of behind…I never did well with reading and math so when I was in elementary school I didn’t speak very well so I had a speech therapist,” Nichols said, “My grandmother was really good about making sure I had services every year, because it was a year-by-year basis. She was very good about saying ‘no she needs another year of services!’”

Photo Credit: Lisa Nichols – Lisa and her grandmother

For Nichols’ mother, the effect of domestic violence was too much, even after escaping it and starting a new life with her two daughters. She suffered and was diagnosed with a mental health breakdown in her mid-30s.

“My grandmother raised me because even though my mom was in the home…she was not mentally there,” Nichols said.

With her grandmother’s unconditional love and support, Nichols has obtained three degrees and two credentials from Fresno State: Bachelors of Arts in Social Work (1998), Masters in Social Work (2003), Masters in Administration Education (2014), Pupil Personnel Services Credential (2003) and an Administration Credential (2014).

“She is my motivator, because I am 44 and she passed away when I was 42, but I tell kids every day, ‘you are never too old to have a support system. You only need one person rooting for you’,” Nichols said, And I was still getting advice from my grandmother until the day she died.”

View the original Alumni Association Story in full at the LINK.