Davidson Senior Melodie Mendez is among 17 North Carolina student winners of the 2012 "Community Impact Award" from Campus Compact, a national coalition that promotes civic engagement in higher education. The award was announced just days before she was also named as senior class recipient of the college's Goodwin-Exxon award for high standards of character, friendliness and consideration for others.
"Mel doesn't just do service as an activity for her resume," said Associate Dean of Students Stacey Riemer. "For Mel, service is a way of life. She does this because she believes it's her responsibility to transform communities."
Mendez is a Bonner Community Service Scholar from the Bronx, N.Y. Early in her Davidson career she began serving at the Ada Jenkins Community Center's LEARNworks after school program, and was quickly promoted to recreation supervisor. She has since helped raise awareness for environmental justice and intimate partner violence and, last summer, worked in Peru with "Amigos de las Americas" to improve sanitation and community health through youth education.
Mendez is the third Davidson student to receive the Community Impact Award since its creation in 2002. Reimer nominated Mendez for the Impact award because of her innovative work on community issues, diverse forms of engagement, her ability to lead and inspire, sustainability of her efforts, and evidence of the positive impact they are having on campus and in the community.
"When it came time to nominate students for these awards, Mel's name immediately surfaced with everyone I talked to," said Reimer. "I don't know how she does it all, but she does."
"I realized early on that being involved in community service helps me prepare for the real world," said Mendez. "I've gained many transferable life-skills, like grant writing, time management and working with people from diverse backgrounds. I don't see why anyone wouldn't want to do it."
As a first-generation college student in her family, Mendez also views civic engagement as a way of saying "Thank you" for the educational opportunities she has enjoyed. She was selected to participate in New York City's "Prep for Prep" program, which places promising students of color at independent schools and supports their academic accomplishment. She said, "Prep-for-Prep prepared me to get into my boarding school and also took me on a tour of the South to ensure that Davidson was a great fit for me."
In conjunction with community engagement outreach, Mendez holds leadership positions in several on-campus organizations. She's twice been president of Davidson's Organization for Latino American students. She's also vice president of the Upsilon Mu chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and mentor for the HHMI Strategies for Success scholarship program. She's also working with her sorority and the Freeword poetry group to teach spoken word poetry to children. "We're focusing on positive self-image, healthy relationships, and community development," Mendez said. "It's part of an effort to combat intimate-relationship violence by developing strong and positive self and community perception at an early age-indirectly addressing a potential issue at a transformative age."
Mendez is currently working on her senior thesis for the major she created through the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies- "Environmental Anthropology in Latin America." Though she hasn't settled on post-graduate plans, she is sure she'll remain engaged in her community. "You have time for what you make time for," she said. "So make time for things that matter."