Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Volunteer Spotlight: Melanie Munsey

Melanie Munsey grew up on the East Coast but has spent the majority of her life in Illinois. She went to middle and high school in McHenry and she has lived in Chicago for the past six years. As a kid, she always liked school, especially history, reading, and writing. Her dad is a retired naval officer, so her family moved around a lot when she was young. She switched schools often, which was always an adjustment, but she always tried to look at the bright side of things: “I got to meet a lot of new people.”

As a teenager, which most Cabrini Connections students are, Melanie says it is important to have goals in mind. The opportunities that you have at the end of high school are a direct result of how you spend those four years. If you want to move out and go to college, you have to put forth the effort to put yourself in the position to make it happen; to make your dreams become a reality!

Melanie attended McHenry County College for two years before transferring to DePaul University’s business school. She had a nontraditional college experience because she didn’t live in a dorm, worked full-time, and was thus unable to participate in many extracurricular activities. She did, however, play soccer for many years. She says that being a student athlete is a balancing act but, ultimately, working with teammates helps motivate you on and off the field.

Melanie worked primarily in restaurants from her senior year of high school through college. She gained a lot of skills from multitasking and working with people. She says it is a particularly good job for students because the hours are flexible and it pays well. The coolest place she ever worked was Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant because it was frequented by influential people such as Barack Obama!

In present day she works at a global market research company called Ipsos. She does quantitative research on large groups of people about new products, packaging, etc. Her job is challenging because she has to coordinate with people all over the world and manage the logistics of each major project. For example, just recently, she was working on a study in Japan when the earthquake hit. So not only are their time zone and language barriers, you also have to be up with current event and sensitive to certain situations.

Melanie became a tutor/mentor at Cabrini Connections after being referred by her friend, veteran volunteer Elena Lugo. She has tutored youth before but was looking to develop a 1-on-1 relationship instead of just doing homework management. So far, Melaine likes the program and her student, Tenia Tucker. “It has been much more rewarding than other programs,” she says.

Her tip for mentors is to ask a lot of open ended questions. She also recommends getting to know what your student’s situation is like at home and in school. All of these things help build trust and, in her experience, make your student comfortable enough to tell you when things change or when he or she is having a hard time. Thanks for the advice, Melanie! Keep up the good work!

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