Marybeth Melendez is a woman of many accomplishments and talents. She is a College of Staten Island (CSI) graduate student, a mother of three, and, as hundreds of people witnessed at the Unidad Latina Conference this past October, also a singer. However, what the audience members at the first annual Conference may not have known is that Melendez is an individual who is blind.
Melendez suffers from a retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative genetic disorder, which caused her to begin to lose her vision at a young age. Yet, that did not hinder her academic and personal dreams. She applied to the College, earned an Associate’s and a dual Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology, and is now pursuing graduate coursework.
“The only way I could provide for my kids was to go back to school. I knew it was a decision I was making for me and for them. I needed to make sure I was planning for a successful future for us,” commented Melendez.
Her recent rise to stardom at the Conference in New York City certainly solidified that sentiment. Melendez was honored when she was asked to sing both the opening and closing songs of the night. Melendez began the event with “The Star-Spangled Banner” and brought the evening to a close with “Killing Me Softly with His Song.”
The graduate student, who is pursuing a master’s degree at CSI in Mental Health Counseling, also spoke to attendees briefly to share her gratitude to CUNY for the opportunities she has been given in higher education.
“I thank CUNY for giving me the best education possible, and we, as students, give back in terms of advocacy as we stay in the New York workforce. We are students, workers, advocates, public servants, and professionals. We are the best of CUNY,” said Melendez.
The Conference, which was organized by the New York State Senate and the Hispanic Federation, brought together hundreds of people from the Hispanic community in New York, including leaders from business, education, health care, and government to discuss ways to promote economic growth and job creation. At the event, the Unidad Latina Award for Excellence in Education was presented to CSI President Dr. Tomás D. Morales.
Melendez is the former President of the ALPHA (Academics, Leadership, Professionalism, Honor, and Acceptance) Club and both a tutor and registered student at the CSA. She has worked on special projects and events with the CSA since 2009 and was a speaker at the 2010 “My Story” event.
“The Center for Student Accessibility leveled the playing field for me. They gave me the tools I needed to be the best student I could be. Without the Center, I would not be where I am today,” said Melendez, who graduated summa and magna Cum Laude and is the recipient of multiple scholarships.
The Center for Student Accessibility is a part of the Division of Student Affairs.
As part of the Center for Student Accessibility’s (CSA) “My Story” campaign, the Center will regularly highlight high-achieving students who have overcome challenges and exhibit student success, including academic advancement, co-curricular commitment, and pre-professional training.