Alum Awarded MIT Fellowship
Andrew Melendez '10 was born and raised in Holyoke-a city with some of the highest rates of poverty and high school dropouts in Massachusetts. He is the first in his family to graduate from college. Therefore, in a few weeks when he opens a letter to find his new student ID and sees the name "Massachusetts Institute of Technology" on the front, it will be overwhelming to say the least.
MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning selected Andrew to study under a new fellowship program called Transitional Leadership.
"I will be working with others in the fellowship, all younger than 30, on becoming the next community leaders," Andrew said.
That Andrew would be selected to study at one of the nation's top research universities should come as no surprise to anyone who knows him well, despite his humble beginnings. Andrew participated in the Dorothy Day program in its first year and "learned what it means to be socially conscious."
His passion for philanthropy did not end there. Over the next four years he volunteered with the Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity, went on a service trips to Honduras and New Orleans, became program director of Homework House, and founded Walking School Bus of Holyoke-a program that partnered walking school-aged children with positive role models on their morning commute to school.
Andrew's natural leadership skills have propelled him up the rungs of the career leader over a short period. During his tenure with Homework House, he became program coordinator at The Summer Institute, outreach coordinator for Project 13 (a dropout prevention program), departing to assume the role of Greater Holyoke Director of the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce. He was also appointed to Holyoke's Police Chief Search Committee and the Valley Opportunity Council board of directors.
Recently, Andrew was named Holyoke's early literacy coordinator through a grant from the United Way of Pioneer Valley and the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation.
Through the fellowship program, Andrew plans to apply a three-tiered approach to strengthening Holyoke's communities and revitalizing the city: ownership, empowerment, and accountability.
"The members of the community have to take ownership of their communities and hold themselves, and others, accountable for their own outcomes," he said.