Sometimes, the decision to attend college is tucked away in the back of your mind and other times, fate steps in and does the rest. Melodee Melero has met challenges time and time again for the past five years. Now, she is preparing to receive her associate degree in Exercise Science on Aug. 1 and move on to the next goal of earning her bachelor’s degree.
Growing up, and influenced by her mother’s dedication to daily exercise, Ms. Melero chose to work at Curves for Women, which allowed her to help women gain strength to lead their best lives. “Helping women who couldn’t stand up from a machine without assistance, or who couldn’t lift 10 pound weights to get stronger and become more independent, gave me the best feeling in the world (and it still does!),” recalls Ms. Melero.
Realizing that this indeed was the career path that she wanted to pursue led her to Chattanooga State where she earned her GED and a personal training certification before being hired by Siskin. When Siskin made the decision to require bachelor’s degrees in exercise science of all their employees, Ms. Melero knew she had to act and returned to Chattanooga State to seek help from Dr. Patricia Ochoa.
“I wanted a degree that would enable me to keep my dream job at Siskin Health and Fitness Center, and Dr. Ochoa helped me select a perfect fit,” said Ms. Melero. “I planned my classes with the help of Dr. Ochoa. I work full-time so I only took one or two classes a semester, paying out-of-pocket as I went. I knew I would not be able to do my best if I took any more than that. I didn’t have a time line, just a goal to get there and do my best,” she adds.
“They (Siskin) thought so highly of Melodee that they wanted to keep her on staff while she worked on her associate degree and beyond,” shares Dr. Ochoa.
Ms. Melero’s five-year journey to earn her associate degree was not without sacrifices. She studied and did homework during lunch breaks, after work and on weekends. When she took over care of her dad and grandmother that required moving them from California to Tennessee, she had to withdraw for a semester, but with the unyielding support of her husband Jose, she was able to return to school the next semester.
Now ready to graduate summa cum laude on Aug. 1 and in her sixth year at Siskin, Ms. Melero is a Member Specialist teaching Target Water Fitness and Pilates Mix classes, but says that the pandemic changed everything. “I’m doing screenings at the main entrance, I could not get my dad enrolled in programs he desperately needed, and school changed to online only,” she states. Feeling lost for a moment and cut off from everything, Ms. Melero reorganized her schedule and prioritized to make sure she got through it while still doing the best she could. “It happened to work out,” she said. “Through all the things that have happened over the past five years, I’ve discovered that when I set my mind to it, I can move mountains!”