Allyssa Moessner‘s father always wanted her to graduate from high school. When they discussed the topic, he encouraged her to keep working toward the goal, despite many obstacles.
“That’s the No. 1 thing that he wanted me to do,” Moessner said. “I gotta make him proud and myself proud.”
Her life has included a multitude of challenges, but next week Moessner will be one of 259 Menomonie High School graduates. The school’s graduation ceremony was originally slated for May 31, but that was moved back to July 17 because of COVID-19.
Coronavirus also forced an abrupt shift to the final stretch of Moessner’s high school education. The past couple months of online schooling have entailed a difficult adjustment, but one she eventually overcame.
“It’s definitely been a struggle,” Moessner said. “I was at risk of not graduating, but once I started doing Zoom chats with my teachers and getting help that way, I understood better what I needed to do.”
That is far from the only struggle Moessner has bested in her life. Her childhood was marked by instability. She sometimes lived with her parents, who had substance-abuse addictions, but more often lived in foster homes or with other family members. Moessner is estranged from her mother and now lives with her grandmother.
Despite his personal struggles, Moessner was close with her father, Timothy Moessner.
“My dad was the only person I could go to about anything,” Moessner said.
She said her father was personable and true to himself.
“He always stayed a genuine person,” Moessner said. “He never let (drugs) get the best of him, and he never let it take him over and treat him a different way. He was always very outgoing … He was very friendly. Everyone knew who he was around town.”
Timothy Moessner ran a cleaning business for more than two decades, but his life abruptly changed last spring when a doctor found a tumor in his body. His health rapidly deteriorated, and Allyssa Moessner looked after her father as his condition worsened.
As a 16-year-old, Moessner was her father’s primary caregiver. She set up medical appointments, led him in physical exercises and ensured that he took medication at all hours of the day and night.
Moessner’s father realized he wouldn’t live to see her graduate but stressed the importance of completing her high school education. A few months after the tumor was discovered, he died from cancer on June 4 at the age of 56.
“I’m still processing the grief, and that’s always going to be there,” Moessner said. “That’s the toughest thing to ever happen to me, among everything that I have been through.”
Many people helped Moessner handle the crushing loss, including her friends, younger siblings and employees from the Department of Health Services Comprehensive Community Services program. Instructors also aided Moessner.
“My teachers were very, very helpful in that time, and I’m really appreciative of that,” Moessner said.
French teacher Julie Eiden taught Moessner as a freshman, sophomore and junior. In an email, Eiden said Moessner had an “ever ready smile,” a calm, upbeat attitude and rarely let a struggle stand in her way for long.
Eiden said Moessner dramatically improved as a student over her high school career.
“Some students just touch our hearts as teachers, and Allyssa is one of them,” Eiden wrote. “I think Alyssa arrived as a freshman without a lot of understanding as to why her education is important to her next step in life, and she had challenges in her personal life. And yet, she has pulled through. I get a little teary-eyed in thinking about her. I am so proud of her and wish her the very best.”
Eiden will remember her former student’s caring attitude. Moessner wrote her a thank-you after her third year of French, something Eiden cherished.
“Her words brought tears to my eyes,” Eiden wrote. “It is a note I will always hold on to when needing to be uplifted.”
After dealing with so many challenges along the way, Moessner said graduating high school is a huge accomplishment. She will take a gap year before enrolling in college and wants to travel to places like California and the Bahamas. She hopes to swim with dolphins.
In fall 2021, Moessner plans to enroll at Chippewa Valley Technical College and study early childhood education. She said the field of study suits her temperament, and she has plenty of experience taking care of younger siblings and interning at a local day care this year.
Her father won’t witness Moessner’s graduation, but she knows he is proud of her.