Breana Massie

Breana Massie takes a break between classes on the Campus Green at Ohio University’s Zanesville Campus.

Photographer: Christine Shaw

Massie family

Ohio University Zanesville students Breana and Josh Massie are pictured with their two children, Westen and Braelen.

Photo courtesy of: The Massie family

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Determination not excuses leads to Zanesville student’s success

Students who come through the doors of Ohio University Zanesville have many reasons for wanting to earn a degree. For Breana Massie there were three. She entered college just out of high school in 2005, with the expectation that her parents wanted something more for her than they had. When she stopped attending in 2008, it was for a very good reason: She and her husband, Joshua, were expecting their first child.

While that may not seem a reason to stop, the circumstances were different for Breana, who has Spina Bifida. Her doctors were worried about her health and conceiving, but she and Joshua felt having a family was worth the risk, so she stopped attending classes to fulfill their dream of having a family. Breana returned after having her son, Westen, and daughter, Braelen, the second and third reason she was determined to complete her degree.

“I first met Breana and her husband Josh several years ago when they were taking my public speaking class together,” said Cindy Linn, assistant dean for development and instructor. “The sacrifices they were making in order to be adult college students were for their children…they want their son and daughter to have all that life can offer.”

While Breana faced the typical barriers that many adult students face such as distance to come to class, technology challenges and child care, she overcame even more to accomplish her goal. Between a lifelong battle with Spina Bifida and having dyslexia, the time it took her to accomplish classwork was much longer than that of her classmates.  

“Breana is a hard worker,” explained Linn. “She doesn’t do less work because of her learning disabilities….she does more work that often takes twice as long.” Linn went on to explain that Breana had the desire to succeed and excel and just needed some small accommodations. “With Breana’s diligence for working to accomplish the job it was so easy on my part to make those accommodations.”

Even while Breana was not taking classes, she dedicated time to gaining experience and giving back to her community through volunteer work. It was that volunteering, and her initiative in creating a brochure for Dr. Thomas Kamau’s “Steps of Courage” project, that helped her secure an exciting and very competitive internship position with Mount Carmel East.

“In her own unique way Breana has demonstrated her ability to be a creative and suitable team player who consistently applies analytical and critical thinking in solving real and simulated problems," Kamau, assistant professor of health services administration, said. “As her academic advisor and instructor, I testify that Breana not only possesses the desire to learn but a profound sense of mission and endurance.”

Breana’s strong work ethic and diligence were undoubtedly influenced by her parents who worked hard to provide a better life for their children. Breana and Josh hope the same for their own children as they earn their degrees from Ohio University by attending the Zanesville Campus. “We are here for our kids,” Breana said of her and Josh’s decision to continue their education. Breana will complete her bachelor’s degree in health services administration and Joshua will follow in the same steps this time next year.

Breana credits support of others for helping her along the way – family support from Josh, her parents and Josh’s parents along with assistance from Ohio University that provided a reader for her and provided support and advocacy along the way. “Disability Services at Ohio University Zanesville has come a long way since I first started taking classes,” Breana explained. “Nina Henderson and Carey Bush work well together to provide the services students, like me, need.”

While those who have helped Breana realize that support is critical to success, so is the will and determination of someone who imagines her future as brighter than the generation before hers. Breana is a role model for others who say it can’t be done, for those who make excuses along the way and, most importantly, for her children who will reap the benefits of their parents’ love and encouragement to pay it forward well into the future.

When asked what advice she’d give to others, Breana thoughtfully said, “The first thing you need to achieve your goals in life is to believe in yourself.” She went on to say, “When you believe in yourself, then others will believe in you as well and that’s what builds a great support team!”

Breana also offered that if you come to college unsure, as many do, to seek out support. She said, “Find a special person you see as a mentor, someone you believe in and who believes in you – that you admire. For me that person is Cindy Linn. When I returned to school for a second try, she knew what I wanted and encouraged me to continue.”

“Seeing Breana graduate is very exciting. I like to think that all of us at Ohio University Zanesville have provided Breana with what she has needed in the way of minor accommodations to help her reach her goals,” Linn said with pride. “At Ohio University Zanesville we get to know our students in small settings and are really able to focus on each individual student.”