Stamford native among winners of statewide distinguished student award
STAMFORD — Melanie Jones’ spirit of helping others started during her childhood, when her love of animals inspired her to walk dogs as a favor to her Glenbrook neighbors.
Since then Jones, 22, has become more altruistic, spending about 30 hours a semester volunteering with her sorority, Sigma Delta Tau, and taking on projects around her campus at Western Connecticut State University and in her hometown of Stamford.
Jones, who is graduating from WCSU this month with a bachelor’s in music education, was recently honored with the Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award for outstanding academic achievement and dedication to community and on-campus involvement. She is one of 12 seniors from the four regional collegesto receive the honor, which comes with a $500 scholarship for post-educational experiences.
A student teacher at Cos Cob Elementary School in Greenwich and Darien High School for her final-semester requirements, Jones was initially hesitant when she received a letter urging her to apply for the award. With her mom’s encouragement, she went ahead, and is still a bit surprised that she won.
“I thought: this is going to be one of these ‘Thank you for applying (emails),’” she said. “When I found out I got it, I was so happy...Ever since then I’ve been feeling so great. It’s a good way to end my senior year.”
Jones’ volunteer work included selling nail polish to benefit Jewish Women International, one of her sorority philanthropies, and cleaning up parks around Danbury. Through Sigma Delta Tau’s community service programs, she also spent time raising awareness about mental health on campus and worked with special-needs students.
Jones said her tendency toward volunteering began as a student at graduate of the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering, where students are required to perform 40 hours of community service to graduate.
“It’s just something that became normal to me,” she said. “It became a fun thing to give back to the community and hang out with my friends and do something nice.”
Jones’ work extends to Stamford as well. Since she was 13, she’s spent summers volunteering at the Ferguson Library’s summer reading club and the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County on Glenbrook Road. An alumna of the Stamford High School band, she also helps out with the band there and at Westhill High School, teaching percussion groups and volunteering for the band’s annual Christmas tree sale.
“I go over there all the time,” Jones said. “That’s what I love to do.”
Jones will move this summer to Australia, where she will gain more experience teaching while working toward a master’s in instrumental conducting or general education.
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