Down and Out And Back Up: Kent State Ashtabula Student Nick Pizzi Turns His Life Around

“(Nick) did not fit any stereotype of someone who went through what he did. He is extremely personable and shows excellent leadership. He had always taken full responsibility for everything and was all-in on all the classes and program-related activities."
- Associate Lecturer Mandy Ulicney 

In March 2015, Nick Pizzi hit rock bottom. After receiving his third DUI, he decided to stop drinking. But unfortunately, it was too late. Four months later, before his daughter’s eighth birthday, Pizzi was sentenced to one year in the Ashtabula County jail, where his life would change forever for the positive. 

Pizzi attended Kent State University at Ashtabula for two years before dropping out. Shortly after, he was caught up in some questionable choices, including drugs and alcohol, which soon overtook his life and became his main priority. 

He lost track of where he wanted to go in life and soon became addicted to all of the wrong things. The majority of his 20s were spent between jobs, not focusing on being a good father and not considering the consequences of his actions. 

On July 28, 2015, Pizzi entered his court hearing. To his surprise, he was immediately taken into custody for a year. Frantic and confused, Pizzi could not wrap his head around what was happening and quickly started feeling sorry for himself. 

Due to overcapacity in prison, Pizzi was assigned to the floor with murderers and other major offenders. 

Three weeks into his sentence, he had a conversation with an inmate who had been bullied his whole life to the point that he eventually murdered his father. 

“I will never forget this conversation,” Pizzi said. “He told me, ‘Worst case scenario, you’re in here for a year and your life is going to go on. Not me, this is my life, I am stuck here.’ From there, I wrote a letter to my father.” 

In that letter to his father, Pizzi said he was willing to trade the one year in jail to get back the rest of his life. This is where he dedicated to make those post-jail years better for not only himself but for his daughter and his family. 

Pizzi soon became an assistant cook at the jail and took classes through the Jail Treatment Program, allowing him to get out three months early; however, he knew he had a long way to go. 

Nine months after being released, Pizzi enrolled in the Department of Hospitality at Kent State Ashtabula. He mentions a pivotal part in his journey at Kent State Ashtabula is meeting Mandy Ulicney, saying he “could not imagine it any other way without her help.” 

Ulicney, associate lecturer for the Department of Hospitality Management at Kent State Ashtabula, said Pizzi was a model student as he was taking classes, all while being a single parent and working full time for his own business. 

“He did not fit any stereotype of someone who went through what he did,” Ulicney said. “He is extremely personable and shows excellent leadership. He had always taken full responsibility for everything and was all-in on all the classes and program-related activities." 

Pizzi started Pizzi’s Flooring two years after leaving prison in 2018. When he went back to school, Pizzi believed getting a degree was more of a hobby than anything else. He soon realized that this degree would help him out more than he anticipated. 

“Kent State has helped learn about networking and expanding my business,” Pizzi said. “The combination of learning how to deal with people through hospitality when starting a business makes the customer service a much smoother process.” 

Pizzi’s advice to students is that it’s never too early to start your own business, recommending everyone should try to at one point in their life. He also advises students struggling with addiction to use their addictive personality for something good. 

“If you have an addictive personality like I have, do not hide from it,” Pizzi said. “You never want to change who you are; instead, you just want to turn it into something positive.”

Pizzi is graduating with a Bachelor of Science from the Department of Hospitality Management in May 2021 with a 3.7 GPA graduating with honors. He plans to continue his education by getting his master’s in the hospitality program at Kent State.

For more information about Kent State Ashtabula’s Hospitality Department, visit www.kent.edu/ashtabula/hospitality-management.

For more information about Pizzi’s Flooring, visit pizzis-flooring.business.site.

POSTED: Monday, May 10, 2021 03:26 PM
UPDATED: Thursday, July 25, 2024 12:34 PM
WRITTEN BY:
Ellie Dundics