2015 Falcon Family of the Year

Nontraditional student succeeds thanks to family support

By Jacquie Nelson

Being a mother of three, a full-time employee and a full-time student makes for a demanding schedule. To juggle this type of constant motion requires a very supportive and loving family. That is why the Yarger family was chosen as the 2015 Falcon Family of the Year, an honor presented to them at the Sept. 19 home football game, during Falcon Family Weekend.

“If my family had not stepped up, I just wouldn’t be here, in this position, with graduation just a few short months away,” said Melanie Yarger.

Yarger is a nontraditional student who is working toward completing her studies for her Bachelor of Applied Health degree in December 2015. Her journey began many years ago at Northwest State Community College. She then moved on to Ohio University, but had to withdraw to take care of her mother, who was fighting cancer. Yarger returned home to nurse her mother back to health, and put her dream of a college degree on the back burner, she thought, for good.

“I began to work, I had to,” she explained. “I did not have the money or the means to consider going back to college.”

Yarger found a job in Bowling Green in a field that she enjoyed very much, at Wood Lane Residential, a local nonprofit agency providing services to people with intellectual disabilities in home settings.

That was where she met her future husband, Curt. They married and began their family, which includes Hannah, 9, Nicholas, 8, and Natalie, 5. Already a busy working mother, Yarger also cared for her children while her husband was deployed to Iraq. In fact, her second child, Nicholas, was born while Curt was overseas.

“It took my entire family for me to achieve this goal — my husband and children, my mother and my in-laws, who offered babysitting, errand running, hand-holding and undying moral support"

Upon Curt’s return and retirement from the Navy after 24 years of service, he transferred his GI benefits to his wife — a chance for Yarger to go back to school. Without hesitation, and with three small children and a full-time job, she began to slowly work on her degree. She attended Rhodes College and received her associate degree in applied science. Then, after a visit to the BGSU campus, where she said she fell in love with the University, she enrolled and began her journey to complete her bachelor’s degree.

“It took my entire family for me to achieve this goal — my husband and children, my mother and my in-laws, who offered babysitting, errand running, hand-holding and undying moral support,” she said, beaming. 

Yarger is now an occupational therapy assistant with the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Yarger, whose oldest daughter, Hannah, has learning disabilities, has strengthened her passion for working with individuals who have an array of disabilities, particularly the adult population.

“I want to be an advocate for those who cannot necessarily advocate for themselves,” she enthused. “I want the quality of care for adults with disabilities to be top-notch. It is imperative that these individuals are able to access the community where they can be productive, develop confidence, and live life to its fullest.” 

So what is next for this bubbly mother of three, full-time employee and student extraordinaire? She hints that graduate school may be in her plans and that she has her eye on the autism studies program at BGSU. Yarger also plans to keep her family active in 4H and in community service, citing the importance and tradition of volunteerism as a core family value.

On Saturday, at the presentation of the 2015 Falcon Family of the Year award, all of her family was gathered as the crowd cheered for a member of the BGSU family, while Yarger stood proudly by, beaming at her family, as always close by.

“This is not my award; it is the kids’ award, my husband’s award, everyone’s award — it was a family affair,” she said.

In December, after graduation, the Yargers may not be going to Disneyland but they are finally going on a long-overdue vacation to Atlanta for Christmas, where they will visit extended family and have their first real family vacation.