KEWAUNEE COUNTY, Wis (WBAY) According to statistics, the average college graduate is leaving school with a student loan debt of nearly $40,000. That debt can takes years, even decades to pay off.
But thanks to determination and hard work, a UW-Green Bay student is graduating college Saturday without a penny to pay.
Growing up on her family's Christmas Tree farm in Kewaunee County, Skyla Aissen had a goal.
"Probably when I was 10, I was like, my goal is to make as many kissing balls as I can to go to college and be debt free," says Aissen.
Resembling a giant mistletoe, the holiday kissing balls proved to be a hit.
Over the last 12 years, she's sold thousands.
And it was that early success that fueled Aissen even more.
"And I'm like well this is really good, but I also realized I needed another job, too, so I milked cows when I was 16 for a year and a half and then I waitressed at Anduzzi's, any penny I could get I tried," recalls Aissen.
Add in another part-time job handling marketing, logistics and shipping for a jewelry maker, and Aissen recently had a day at UW-Green Bay she'll never forget.
"I went to school and I paid for the last time, I'm like, oh, I don't have to pay anymore, I'm done," says Aissen.
When Aissen receives her diploma Saturday, she'll have earned her business administration degree with honors in just 3 and a half years, while paying for her college in full.
"I'm really proud of it because I worked so hard and my grandma always told me there's 24 hours in a day and those 24 hours, you have to make every ounce of that time count and I did," says Aissen.
Aissen hopes her story can serve as an inspiration to other young people.
"They're like, 'Oh, I'm going to college and it's so expensive, so expensive.' Well, it doesn't always have to be. You can do it. You just really have to don't go to as many parties or don't be on your phone all the time or social media, use your time wisely, and it's important to have a job," says Aissen.