Alumni Spotlight Stories

Melissa Meza Melkonian, M.S. '05 Makes the Dream of Education Come True for Students 

 

 Melissa Meza Melkonian, M.S. '05 is Founder and Head of School of The American Dream Charter School (ADS) in the South Bronx. Melkonian has long-held the vision to start a school for English language learners and immigrant students.

 Melkonian’s parents came to the United States as undocumented immigrants from Mexico. They worked very hard for little pay, a situation familiar to many undocumented workers and their families.  Because her family only spoke Spanish, she struggled in elementary school as she sought to learn in a language she didn't initially speak. She did not have the support of a "transitional" or “dual language” program where she could still use her native language, the language she knew how to speak, read, and write. Only in fifth grade did she begin receiving English as a Second Language (ESL) services.

 

Despite these challenges, Melkonian ultimately learned English, graduated from high school and then college, became a teacher and later a school leader, and started a family. She has fulfilled the hopes of her parents, who came to the United States so that their children would be able to live the "American dream."

 

The idea for The American Dream School came from Melkonian’s personal experience coupled with research pertaining to student performance in the South Bronx, where many student from immigrant families are underserved in all educational settings. Many immigrant groups struggle to achieve academic success. They are not provided with the foundation to achieve the "American dream." Since 2014, The American Dream School has been helping students to succeed in two languages through a dual-language model and balanced educational practices.

 

In June 2021, ADS graduated its first senior class, nearly all of the members of which were first-generation American and first in their families to attend college.  American Dream currently has two alums who attend Mercy College.

 

Melkonian earned a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Public Policy from Trinity College, Master's in Bilingual and Special Education from Mercy College and Ed.M. in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University.