It's been a long road for Carissa Cirotti. She started out her college freshman year as a history major at Montclair State University, eager to learn and excel.
"I did the fall semester, [it was] all good," Cirotti said.
However, in the spring semester things took a turn for the worse.
"[I had a really] bad headache," Cirotti recalled, "...at least I thought it was a headache."
That headache turned into a brain aneurysm, which caused a stroke, and left Carissa in a coma for 28 days. When she woke up, she was faced with a harsh new reality.
"I wasn't even able to like eat by myself I was like a baby at the age of 19," Cirotti said.
Carissa had to undergo surgery to relieve pressure from her brain. She then committed to several months of physical therapy, where she had to re-learn nearly everything.
"Honestly it was very difficult," Cirotti said. "It was just very frustrating trying to re-learn how to walk, re-learning how to speak, you have a thought in your head of what you're gonna say but it's very...it would never come out."
However, Carissa didn't let that stop her from reaching her goal.
"I wanted to go back to school badly, I was determined," Cirotti said.
So, she enrolled at Warren County Community College, and graduated with a degree in liberal arts.
"[I feel] very accomplished," Cirotti explained, "... I never thought I would be able to go as far as I did."
"It's completely and utterly inspiring," the president of the college, William Austin said. "Carissa is a prime example of someone who has overcome so much."
Carissa's already onto her next adventure, working at Abilities in Northwest New Jersey. She's helping others with disabilities to overcome their obstacles.
If there's one thing Carissa wants people to take away from her story, it's that if you have the will, and the determination, nothing is impossible.
"It was very hard to get there, and I got there, and I'm very thankful," Carissa said.