Featured Image- M.O.S.T.'s newest Board Member, Barbara Meloni, center, with her children Witt Meloni, Ceil Meloni Folk, and Abby Meloni, and her husband Gary.
In July M.O.S.T. welcomed our newest board member, educator and philanthropist, Barbara Meloni. Born in Boston, Barbara moved to Memphis at age two. Excluding college and short stints in Houston and Shreveport as a young couple with her husband, Gary, she has always called Memphis home.
A graduate of Hutchison School and University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Barbara taught elementary and middle school levels and tutored students ranging from kindergarten through high school. This experience enables her to bring a vast knowledge of education to the M.O.S.T. Board. As a philanthropist, she’s ardently committed to improving outcomes for all Memphians by helping young people realize their potential through high quality education.
We sat with Barb to talk about the impact of education, the student-teacher relationship, what she hopes to contribute as a board member, and more.
What comes to mind when you think about your years in private school in Memphis?
The benefits of attending an all-girls school. For me, it was casual and comfortable. I was often a quiet child, but, at Hutchison, I always felt comfortable using my voice. If I needed help, I could speak up and get the great support offered at Hutchison. Not only did I learn academics during my time there, but also I learned foundational things, like how to be comfortable in my own skin.
Where did you first hear about M.O.S.T.?
I’m very passionate about education, so when a friend and donor to M.O.S.T. told me about the organization, I was eager to learn more. My husband, Gary, and I learned a great deal from our involvement with the Jubilee schools of Memphis. Since their closing, we have been looking for an education-adjacent cause that we could support.
Something that stood out to me with M.O.S.T. is that parents of our scholarship students have skin in the game. That’s an important piece for me because I think if the parents actively support the child in education, the kids will be more successful.
Did your passion for education drive your work as a teacher and educator?
Absolutely, I loved it. Early on in my teaching career, when my husband brought up having kids, I would jokingly respond, “But I've got my kids at school!”
I taught and tutored social studies, history, math, English – just about everything. I also had the opportunity to do advising for students. I really enjoyed being in the kids’ lives and still keep up with several of them.
What kind of impact can passionate teaching have on students?
I was excited to see the article in the last M.O.S.T. newsletter about the alumnus who is now a teacher at MUS (Read more about Dr. Kyle Summers here!). It’s clear he’s a fun teacher and makes science appealing to his students. In the article, he specifically mentions having been inspired by a teacher.
I too remember experiences in class where teachers would present the material in a way that ignited my curiosity. In those moments, it became about more than just getting a good grade. The student thinks: “Here's an interesting idea I knew nothing about and now I'm very eager to learn more.”
I think teachers are truly powerful.
What do you hope to bring to the table at your first board meeting?
I’m eager to bring my passion and experience as a private school student, teacher, tutor, and parent. There’s a lot of overlap between my experiences and what M.O.S.T. does, as well as the people and organizations with whom we do it.
I want Memphis to get better and better. That's why I choose to support M.O.S.T. – I'm trying to help Memphis. I can’t solve the world’s problems, but I can help little pieces of it. I want to help Memphis. I’m going to love being part of an organization that encourages students to support Memphis when they become professionals. There's so much opportunity in Memphis, with AutoZone, FedEx, St. Jude, UT Health Sciences, and more.
What advice would you give today’s high school graduates as they embark on what comes next?
Use the educational and foundational knowledge you’ve learned in school to grow. Remember, you now have a support group. Those teachers that inspire you will still be there for you. And, make sure you pursue a career that's going to better yourself and your future family, don't be stagnant. Push yourself, challenge yourself, and be true to yourself.