Melissa Groves

Few could deny the long-term value that student veterans bring to campus. Their experiences make them uniquely positioned for success due to their military training, work ethic, resilience, and steadfast commitment. One such veteran who adopted the “never give up” attitude is Melissa Groves.

Choosing Cuyamaca

Originally from Santa Rosa, California, Rocha attended seven high schools and later received her GED, sharpening her social and interpersonal skills along the way. She then served in the United States Army and was honorably discharged after three years due to an injury.  At this point, Rocha was looking for new educational opportunities, but was unsure of where to start. 


She decided to take the VA’s CareerScope assessment, an online tool that measures a person’s interests and skill levels in order to help them determine the best career path when moving into civilian life. Rocha said, “I would always hear that I was good with people. I did love working with others, but I also did some of my own research to see which field was set to grow within the next few years.”


Under chapter 31 of the GI bill, Rocha was entitled to services like counseling, training, education and job placement assistance. She explains, “Out of all of the options, Cuyamaca had what I was looking for in terms of programs and resources.”

Transition to Remote Learning During COVID-19

After a brief back-and-forth, she decided to pursue child development with the ultimate goal of earning a master’s degree in social work and obtaining an LCSW, a social work license that allows individuals to perform clinical social work and psychotherapy.


While many students struggled with distance learning once the pandemic hit, Rocha took the change in stride. “I’ve always been good at finding my own way. As more of a hands-on learner, being in class with instructors expecting me to memorize information wasn’t for me. Now, I can be in my own head space and conduct research on my own time. The hybrid model has really worked for me” she said.

Bridging the Gap Between Art and Mental Health

As a military veteran and mother of two young children, Rocha wants to find a way to serve both former service members and kids in the future. One thing she’s considering is starting her own creative arts therapy business.


“I love art in all its forms and with so mediums out there, it would be great to design a program that really caters to a person’s needs,” Rocha shares. Whether it’s through cooking, photography, painting, or sculpting, her dream after graduation is to give people an outlet to express themselves through art.