Graduating senior receives a special gift from stranger
When advertising senior Ashley Mugnolo went to the Union to pick up her cap and gown, she said she began to cry because she finally reached a huge milestone in her life.
As a 27-year-old mother of three, Mugnolo went through several struggles to finally walk this spring.
Mugnolo explained why she was crying in a Facebook post, which now has more than 7,000 likes and nearly 300 comments. When asked why she was crying, she explained how she had come back to school to get her degree.
Andy Gillespie, MSU cap and gown representative, said he noticed Mugnolo and once she shared her story he decided he wanted to help. Not only did he tell her how proud he was of her — he paid for her cap and gown.
“Every now and then you kind of just get a feeling, you want to pay it forward,” Gillespie said.
Now reaching the end of her college career, Mugnolo said her family is to thank for inspiring her to come back and get her degree.
A question from her eldest daughter asking what she wanted to be when she grew up brought Mugnolo back.
“I kind of wanted to show her that I meant what I said,” Mugnolo said. “That she can be anything she wanted.”
Balancing being a mother and working, Mugnolo said she wasn’t sure if her education path would end with a diploma.
“I was terrified,” Mugnolo said. “There were many times over the course of the past few years that I told my husband, ‘I don’t think I can do this.’”
She said her husband became a stay-at-home dad so she could go back to school to get her degree.
“He really has been my rock and my support throughout this entire process,” Mugnolo said.
Gillespie said her story was incredible and he thought she deserved a recognition of her hard work.
“Sometimes you find an opportunity to help,” Gillespie said. “You get the opportunity to leave a positive impression on somebody.”
After her experience, Mugnolo went home and shared her story through a Facebook post. The post quickly went viral, she said.
“I saw it as a shoutout to the Spartan community,” Gillespie said. “It was really cool.”
Mugnolo said she was overwhelmed by the amount of support she received from the Spartan community following her post. She said Gillespie’s kindness meant so much to her and made her feel celebrated and she wanted everyone to know there are good people in the world.
Since posting her message on the official MSU Facebook page, Mugnolo said she has received countless messages from other mothers who share their own stories.
“You always want to be that person that your kids see that you are,” Mugnolo said.
Gillespie said simple acts of kindness can go far for a lot of people. He said the moment between Mugnolo and himself was very emotional and graduation is the last experience for those students at their school.
“There’s a lot of negativity in today’s world and I really believe in positives and negatives,” Gillespie said. “If you act in a positive way it really spreads.”
Mugnolo said she hopes her experience inspires others to go back and get their education.
“You can, at any time in your life, go and do whatever you want to do,” Mugnolo said.