From homelessness to happiness through Jobs for Maine’s Graduates program

Missy Nolette-Bald head shotThanks to Jobs for Maine’s Graduates for sharing the following article with the Maine DOE for publication.

You might not think a teenager who earned good grades and had plenty of friends would have any trouble in high school, but Missy Nolette-Bald did. A 1995 alumnus of the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates (JMG) program at Biddeford High School, Nolette-Bald faced some major struggles at home.

“I did not have that happy home that most kids had,” said Nolette-Bald. “Junior and senior year I was homeless, at some point sleeping in cars, on couches, even on the floor. I picked up a part-time job just to have money to take care of myself with food and shampoo.”

With the odds stacked against her, Nolette-Bald says she simply would not have had the tools to succeed, if it had not been for her JMG teaching Specialist, Melissa Milne. She credits Milne and other Biddeford High teachers with putting her on the path to success.

“Mrs. Milne was a person who took every single student as if they were her own,” she said. “She encouraged me and my classmates to believe we could do anything in the world we wanted. She gave us tools to reach goals and to be proud of who we are and what we will be. She was an amazing teacher who you could talk to and learn from and, most importantly, be inspired by.”

When Nolette-Bald was forced to get a part-time job to survive, Milne made sure she didn’t forgo school. “I missed classes to attend work,” she said, “and [my JMG classmates] brought me homework to make sure I got it. Mrs. Milne made sure that I had certain skills to get a job that made me enough money to not create debt or struggle anymore.

“[Milne’s] focus on being determined to not let students fail was paramount to my success today. I proudly live in Biddeford again and look forward to my children going to Biddeford schools, as I know firsthand where their heart really is.”

Nolette-Bald was an active participant both in her JMG program and in school. She was proud of the community service work she and her classmates did through JMG. An athlete, she played field hockey and basketball, and was on the track and field team, competing in the long jump, 100-yard dash and shot-put events.

Throughout high school, Nolette-Bald worked at a Subway restaurant and transitioned to a sales position at a jewelry store. “It was there that I knew I had a niche for sales, either over the phone or face-to-face,” she said. She left Maine for several years working for US Airways Express. When she came home, she landed a job with a call center, where she quickly moved up the ladder, being promoted from agent, to supervisor, to director.

When asked which of her accomplishments she is most proud of, Nolette-Bald said, “I’m proud that I don’t consider success a financial gain, but a level of happiness and security I have in my life now from what I have learned and experienced. I am also proud to be a mom. I had my oldest at 29 years of age and was thankful I was in a healthy lifestyle and financial situation to be able to bring children into the world.

“For any teenager who feels like they can’t do it, you can….Surround yourself with people who are positive, and stay focused on what you want. It won’t be hard forever, and the life lessons you get from it are worth the fight.”