Eliana Melero has come a long way since she began her journey at Joliet Junior College. When she was a kid, she was always the shy girl that sat in the back of the class. But thanks to JJC Melero came out of that shell, and will now represent the college as its student commencement speaker on May 21.
“With moving a handful of times, it had an impact on my social skills. I was always the shy girl in the back of the room. It took until college for me to eventually break out of my shell; and for that, I am so very grateful for JJC,” said Melero.
She is also the recipient of the 2021 Student Service Recognition Award, given to students who have been involved with clubs and organizations during their time at JJC.
Melero grew up in Crest Hill and graduated from Plainfield Central High School in 2016. After graduating she wasn’t sure what career she wanted to pursue, so Melero decided that going to community college was the best option. She will graduate from JJC with an Associate in Arts and an Associate in General Studies.
Melero struggled during her first year at JJC, noting it “wasn’t always easy and fun,” and at times she lacked motivation and felt like giving up. She wants her peers to know that you don’t have to complete your education in a certain amount of time.
“I hit a point where I thought college wasn’t the best route for me. After talking to my advisors and my parents, I found that drive to re-focus myself. I want people to know that no matter what your struggle is, it does not define your ability to be successful,” said Melero. “I am 22 years old and it took me about five years to complete my degree at JJC. I want people to know that you don’t have to follow the crowd.”
Melero went on to join a handful of clubs and organization on campus. She joined the International Student Club and Latinos Unidos. She was so moved by the club missions and goals that she worked to become president of the International Student Club and the vice president of Latinos Unidos. She was also involved in the Disability Awareness Club and the Social Justice Club as they covered issues that she was passionate about. In addition, Melero is a general member of the Student Government Association and student representative for the President’s Diversity and Inclusion Council.
“I have been provided with the opportunities to participate in many activities and network with people I never thought I would be able to had I not joined clubs and organizations,” she said.
When it came to what she wanted to address in her speech, she decided to talk about the challenges that we’ve all gone through during the last year.
“Specifically, for me this past year has been mentally and emotionally draining and I feel that is something that many could relate to. This past academic year and 2020 in general was something we have never witnessed or felt before,” said Melero. “I feel that it is very important for me to make a speech where people can relate and feel hopeful for what our future holds as I strongly believe we have a bright future ahead.”
After graduation she will transfer to pursue a bachelor's degree in history. Melero has always had a passion for others and would love to be a teacher one day. Eventually she wants to earn a master's degree and a doctorate in higher education administration.
“Without JJC I would not have known that I am capable of being great! I am forever thankful for my experiences at JJC, as they have shaped my life into who I am today. JJC has also changed me as I grew into a leader and met many people who have impacted me in such a positive way. I found my passion at JJC,” Melero said.
Melero will deliver her commencement speech during a virtual ceremony on May 21. The college is also conducting a drive-thru event that day at Main Campus from 4-7 p.m. It is open to student graduates from the past year who have registered. More information can be found at www.jjc.edu/graduation.