At a young age, Melina lost her mother to a battle with breast cancer. She wears the breast cancer awareness ribbon on her wrist with the word ‘love’ written across it. The letters are exactly as her mother wrote them to her in a letter years ago. Now Melina studies nutritional sciences in memory of her mother. Find out more about Melina’s experiences here at UConn.
What attracted you to UConn? I grew up twenty minutes away from UConn. When I was little, my parents would take me here to go ice skating or to walk around the campus. I went to community college before here, but once I found out what I wanted to do, my choices were between UConn and Saint Joseph’s. I chose UConn.
What is your major, and why did you choose it? I am majoring in nutritional sciences. When I was eleven, my mom passed away from breast cancer. I wondered if there was anything she could have done differently during her treatment that could have had a different outcome. Nutrition came to mind. My mom was my best friend; she was the one who always pushed me to put school first. I do all of this for her.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? Cornucopia Fest was most memorable to me. I enjoyed Dr. Amy Mobley’s display where you had to take a survey to identify different beans, nuts and legumes. I also found out that there is a UConn Woodsmen club. I had no idea. There were two people out there sawing this giant log.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. I am in the Husky Nutrition program this semester. Once a week, we drive into Hartford and teach elementary-aged children and their parents about nutrition. We might talk to them about sugar-sweetened beverages or another nutrition-related topic. There is an educational board for the parents, along with a fun activity for the kids. We usually have incentives to get the parents to participate. For example, we might give away a measuring cup, a spill-proof toddler cup or a magnetic dry-erase grocery list to put on the fridge.
In addition, last year I attended the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ (FNCE) in Boston, where I went to an interesting session about outpatient cancer centers. They talked about the need for different screening tools so that they can more easily catch malnutrition in cancer patients. They also discussed the need for more dietitians on staff in these types of centers.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? Biochemistry was definitely the hardest class I have ever had to take, and it challenged me like no other. I was just happy to have passed it.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I graduate in May, and I am going to cry. I am more than a super senior because this is my sixth year of school. I am going to be so happy when I am done. This is everything my mom pushed me toward, and I know she would be so happy, too.
I applied to both Yale and UConn dietetic internships. If I don’t get an internship, I will retake biochemistry, take the Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR) exam and keep working full time. If I do get an internship, I’ll freak out.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I have been living on my own since I was 18 years old. I had to save up to buy my own car, and I even had to couch surf for several months. The entire time, I could have stayed with family in New York, but I wanted to be at UConn. All of my friends are here, and I have lived here my entire life.
For the past four years of college, I have worked full-time while also going to school full-time. It has taken me longer, but I feel like this experience made me a better person overall. I know how to juggle work with school. My job is in food service management at Burger King. On March 5, I marked seven years there and my fourth year managing. I also work at a dietary aide job every other weekend.
I am proud to say that, as of right now, I have no student loans.