Francesca Sauchelli PortraitFrancesca Sauchelli, of Boonton, never developed an academic record of success during her elementary and high school years. In fact, she dropped out of high school in her senior year. She then attended two community colleges part-time but withdrew from each before she ever really got started.

Today, however, she is grateful for the second chance she found at County College of Morris (CCM). A member of the Class of 2019 at CCM, Sauchelli, 26, this fall will be attending an Ivy League school – Columbia University in New York City. The school that she had put at the top of her list.

Particularly significant is that Columbia accepted her as pre-med student, even though science was not her focus at CCM. Her goal is to become a psychiatrist.

“It’s a really big deal for me,” says Sauchelli, who reveals that life for her and her two younger brothers, Harrison and Christian, has not been easy. Her mother died when Sauchelli was four-years old, prompting her to assume responsibility for helping to raise her brothers. She helped them with their homework and learned to cook and clean at an early age. The family moved a lot, typically renting in affluent areas where Sauchelli often felt out of place. She attended four high schools before she dropped out to take a job in the New York fashion industry at age 15. She also suffers from bipolar disorder. Yet she credits all the trials and challenges, and having to grow up early, with keeping her anchored.

“I was lucky to have that responsibility because it kept me pretty grounded,” says Sauchelli. “Without that I can see how someone like me could spiral down pretty quickly.”

Her brother Harrison graduated from Penn State and now works in mergers and acquisitions. When Christian completed the automotive tech program at Lincoln Tech, Sauchelli recognized that her role had changed in her brothers’ lives. They no longer needed her to watch out for them.

“I always had a strong sense of purpose to take care of them, and when my younger brother went out on his own I felt an emptiness,” she recalls.

Rather than letting that emptiness overwhelm her, she decided it was time to get serious about going to college.

“I knew that I had to give it my all, otherwise I would spend my life wondering what I might have accomplished,” says Sauchelli. “I had no more excuses.”

Fortunately, she also had learned bookkeeping, which provides her with an income and the flexibility she needs to stay in school, given that it’s work that can be done anytime of the day.

The classes at CCM, she says, are “rigorous” but the college also provides the resources to help students to succeed. “As a result of my CCM education, I feel more than prepared to succeed at Columbia,” she says.

Most importantly, it was the track record of academic success she developed at CCM that gained her access to a top-notch university.

“I came to CCM because I did not have anywhere else to go. I did not have the record or SAT scores to go anywhere else,” she notes. “That’s the beauty of CCM and community colleges, in general. To me they are the most important institutions in higher education because they give people like me a second chance.

“I feel so lucky to have had such a good school in my county that I could attend.”