Melanie McLane, a beautiful, poised 17-year-old, with long dark hair, a cherubic face and glasses, has a strong sense of purpose. For the past year, she has worked with Adult Basic Education in Barre to find an alternative educational program that will work for her life. And worked it has! This past year, Melanie has taken Universal on-line classes in marine biology, abnormal psychology, anatomy and physiology, anxiety therapy, English composition, short story writing, and horseback riding. In addition, she has taken a course in financial literacy from Capstone in Barre, a phlebotomy course from Community College of Vermont, a calligraphy class from the Art Studio in Barre and worked 10-20 hours a week for Meals on Wheels in Barre, helping prepare, serve, clean up and socialize with those in need in her community.
A year ago, floundering in high school, socially unhappy and at odds with her peers, and struggling with emotional and physical health issues, Melanie knew she needed to make some big changes or risk dropping out of high school. With the incredible help of her Girls/Boyz First Mentoring mentor, Marilu, (a consistent and encouraging presence in Melanie’s life since she was 12), Melanie found the support she needed to work with her school counselor, Emily Grahm at Spaulding High School. Emily encouraged Melanie to enroll in Adult Basic Education’s alternative degree program where Jacqueline Stewart has successfully helped her refocus her educational plans and goals. This May, Melanie will not only graduate high school on time but will be the first person in her family to go to college!
In the fall, Melanie is headed to Cassanovia College in New York State, with a nice financial aid package, where she plans on majoring in Equine Studies, and fulfilling her dream to channel her passion for horses into a meaningful career.
“Mentoring has meant so much to me,” says Marilu, Melanie’s mentor. “I came into Melanie’s life as a mentor with Girls/Boyz First Mentoring program in 2011 and have remained her mentor ever since. Mentoring for the past 6 years has allowed Marilu to clearly see Melanie’s strengths. Melanie knows her sphere: horses. Melanie has a winning personality, is demure, deferential to authority, and quick to accept guidance. She is hard-working, extremely caring, and her affinity for animals is extraordinary.”
Marilu is sensitive to the common thread of under-privilege, single parenting and academic underachievement that permeates the background and culture of some of the mentees in Girls/Boyz First Mentoring.
“Melanie has had so many challenges in life: family, health, teen and social issues, economics…In the past couple of years, I have watched Melanie come to terms with the fact that college graduates get better jobs and lead more comfortable lives. This has sparked a flame in her. I am so proud of Melanie. She has gotten into college!”
Marilu says she thinks about Melanie all week long and “all the things that I want to talk with her about on our Saturdays together.”
“Mentoring has made a huge difference in my life,” says Melanie. “Marilu has given me advice and made me realize that in order to succeed in life you need an education and passion. Marilu helped me to figure out what to do with my life.”
Melanie’s future goals include graduating high school this June and graduating college. She would like to complete 1-2 internships while in college, perhaps in equine massage, and have a job in her field when she graduates.
“I am excited and look forward to riding in the arena, getting to have a college experience and be on my own and prove to myself that I can do it.”
Marilu says that she imagines that she will feel so adrift when Melanie heads off to college this fall. “I will probably take a breather from mentoring for a bit and then sign up again.”