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May 17, 2024

Graduating Senior - Emily Lezotte

Young woman sitting in front of window overlooking college campus

West Branch
Bachelor of Science, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology and Biomedical Sciences
Next Step: Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Emily Lezotte’s journey to and through college is nothing short of remarkable. Hers is a story of fortitude, determination and perseverance.

Emily’s early childhood was spent in West Branch, where her parents owned and operated a business. Following Emily’s 4th grade year, her parents withdrew her and her five (at the time) siblings from public school in favor of homeschooling.

That lasted a few years but fell apart because of the family’s financial struggles.  Those struggles were not short lived. When Emily was 15, both of her parents became ill. By then, another child had joined the family, and two more would quickly follow.

“As the oldest girl in the family,” Emily said, “teaching my siblings, caring for my parents and providing for my entire family fell to me and my fourth grade education.”

Emily put that education to use to the best of her ability.

“I decided that I didn’t want to be helpless forever. I was too far behind in my education and too busy caring for my family to go back to school,” she said. “I wanted more for my self and for my siblings, so I decided to teach myself at home while teaching a couple of my younger siblings to read and do basic math.”

In the process of teaching her siblings, Emily figured out what she needed to teach herself. Borrowing books from the library, Emily learned middle school and high school math, science, reading and even another language. Eventually, she obtained her GED (general educational development) credential and began taking classes at Kirtland Community College. There, Emily said, she fell in love with science and biology and decided she wanted to pursue a career in medicine.

Emily’s introduction to medicine was very hands-on, as she was caring for her mother, who was struggling with depression; her father, who was recovering from cancer; and her siblings, who needed someone to care for them while their parents could not.

“It wasn’t until the middle of my third year of college that my parents were stable enough for me to start working and volunteering to gain clinical experience, leaving me racing to catch up to my peers,” Emily said.

As determined as ever, Emily kept pursuing her goal of studying medicine.

After earning her associate degree from Kirtland, Emily was accepted to SVSU. However, financial challenges nearly sidelined her enrollment. Fortunately, with the support of financial aid and scholarships, Emily was able to attend SVSU. Throughout her time at SVSU, Emily received the Robert and Ellen Thompson Working Families Transfer Scholarship, Mary C. Kato Endowed Scholarship for Women and a grant from the SVSU Emergency Fund.

In 2023, Emily was accepted to Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Central Michigan University Medical School. But she was struggling financially to pay for her final year of college at SVSU. With an SVSU Degree Completion Scholarship in hand, Emily was able pay for her last semester. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in cell biology, molecular biology and biomedical sciences on May 11. In August, Emily will enter MSU’s College of Human Medicine.

“I see myself as proof that a bad situation doesn’t define you or your future,” Emily said, “and that there’s always a way to improve and reach your goals through hard work and determination.”