Regina & Wayne Melonson Learning Resource Center Endowment
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of Panther Tracks Magazine. The endowment was renamed to honor Regina & Wayne Melonson at the 2018 SPREE auction.
HELPING EVERY STUDENT SUCCEED
By Katrina Freeburg, CFRE, Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving
Tucked into a corner on the top floor of McDonnell Hall is a place where Prep's mission comes alive on a daily basis. The Learning Resource Center (LRC) provides a supportive, inclusive academic environment for students with diagnosed learning differences. Sacred, open to growth and loving underscore all that happens there.Program director and school psychologist Regina Melonson envisioned the LRC over twenty years ago. In her first year, she helped 12 students with study skills support and standardized testing accommodations. Today, LRC services begin when eighth graders take the high school entrance exam and conclude when Prep graduates head off to college ready to take charge of their own learning.Caring. Helpful. Fun. Productive. Like a family. Visionary. Creative. The compliments flow easily from students, alumni and Prep colleagues.
Alex Smith '15 is a student at WSU who credits his college success to the LRC. "I'm 100% more talkative in class now. In a college lecture hall, that's really important in building a relationship with your teacher."The best part about the LRC is how devoted the people who work there are to the students," shares one LRC user.
Natalie Wong '14, a psychology major in the Interdisciplinary Honors Program at Loyola University Chicago, is extremely grateful. "The women at the LRC inspire me. They work so hard for very little thanks. They deserve to know that they are appreciated and making a difference in their students' lives every day. Seeing women in their positions has inspired me to be like them when I am in the professional world."
Melonson leads a team of dedicated educators who surround 145 student learners with respect and care, while raising the bar and holding them accountable. Venicia Allen-Johnson, Amber Ferrese and Jessica Worsham love their work, their colleagues and their students. They all take ownership in the students' successes and challenges. Students sense their sincerity.
Allen-Johnson, a former middle school teacher, is a talented collaborator with a mastery of student advocacy. Her thorough knowledge of each backstory enables her to tailor a huge menu of services and resources intoa perfect blend of support for each student.She's the glue that ties the office to many departments across campus, including faculty, counselors, athletics and student life.
Co-workers call Worsham a "true Renaissance woman." Beyond her math and science expertise, she help students with papers and study skills, and can easily take a pulse on an entire roomful of students. Her genuine kindness and empathy makes one wonder if she's ever had a bad day.
Ferrese is the heart of the operation. Everyone who walks through the door is greeted with "Hello, sweetie," a sign of her maternal compassion. She marries the tech savvy and level of detail necessary to maintain a database of over 500 students with an infectious sense of humor.
LRC staff help each studentsucceed by giving them what they need when they need it, with dignity and respect. "The LRC empowers kids to seek out the help they need discreetly or indiscreetly (as they wish)," recalls former Prep parent Erin Cordry. That support also extends to families. "Parents of students with learning disabilities and special needs often feel they're always fighting for, or defending, the need for services. At Prep, it's completely different. I could not have asked for a more positive approach."
The LRC impact is clear. "Without the LRC, I don't think I would be working as hard as I am," writesone student. "I have learned to work hard and do my work to the best of my ability."
Another student is moredirect. "Without the LRC, I would not be a Prep anymore."
Collegio teacher Cheryl Healy echoes this sentiment. "Without the LRC, we would lose a lot of great kids. Part of our mission is to educate all students. The LRC makes Prep stronger by allowing us to accept many different kinds of learners and it supports a diverse number of students in being successful." It also reinforces Prep's desire to enroll families, which is sometimes a challenge when one sibling has a significantly different learning style.
Healy continued. "It's another tool in the teacher's toolbox. The LRC is available daily for kids in a way we (teachers) aren't able to be. They help us be more effective because of the support and resources they provide students. The LRC is one of the best programs at Prep!"
One LRC learner comments, "The best part is how much everyone is not just willing, but wants to help in any way they can. You really get a sense they are trying to make school work easy for you."
Melonson reiterates her staff's dedication. "We have team members who watch kids in Coffeehouse because that's where they can showcase their talents and others, who although working part-time, will chaperone a retreat because a student asked. We would all do this work, even if we weren't being paid for it."
That commitment teaches students to give back as well. "The LRC is like your best friend – always there when you need it," says Smith. "It made me a better person. Through their generosity I became more aware of how to benefit myself and others. My senior year, I became an LRC tutor to help freshmen."
Service and generosity are additional components of the LRC's success. This year 85 student volunteers serve as peer tutors and 85 others as peer note takers. Generous donors to the Building Our Future Campaign created a dynamic new space in 2015 for this growing program. They also expanded the LRC Endowment, established in 2006, to support the incredible services inside its walls including professional development for the LRC staff, outside tutoring services, external diagnostic testing and testing materials.
Smith thanks LRC donors for helping students whom they may never meet. "Your donation helps more than you can imagine. To the kids in LRC, it means a lot to get the help they need to succeed. No one wants to feel unprepared for college. With the LRC, I feel more prepared than I ever thought possible."