Student rep brings empowering perspective to GCC trustees

  • Dorinessy Orphee Meledje is the student representative on Greenfield Community College’s board of trustees. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For the Recorder
Published: 9/30/2019 11:08:37 PM

GREENFIELD — Dorinessy Orphee Meledje, Greenfield Community College’s newly elected student trustee, is a young female leader and criminal justice student committed to representing the student body while pursuing her vision as a member of the board of trustees.

Meledje began her first term on GCC’s board of trustees in July after being appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker.

She remains just as focused on her goals for promoting equality and for being a role model for women who feel disempowered, particularly in her native Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast, West Africa).

“When I say equality, I mean equality for everything. What a man can have, a woman should have, too,” the new trustee said. “I come from a culture in which women are treated very differently than they are in America. In Africa, it can be really hard for a woman to make it to the top. But in America, women still have a way to make it. I want to be the face of women who don’t believe in themselves and for the girls at school here to show that they can do it.”

Meledje receives high praise from Dr. Yves Salomon Fernández, GCC’s president, who said, “She’s a rock star.”

Studying at GCC since 2017, the prospect of applying for the position was originally brought to Meledje​​​​​​’s attention by friends. She said she felt inspired and applied.

“I thought if I had this potential as a leader, maybe I could apply it,” Meledje said. “This was my first time doing this. I hadn’t ever been in the Student Senate organization. But I thought if we have the Senate and we have a trustee position, why not go for the higher position?”

She stayed focused on gaining the trustee position by developing her vision for helping to make what she saw was needed changes for the campus. This includes making public transportation more accessible for students, especially those who live farther away.

“Changing the public transportation was the most important thing to me, and it’s why I decided to apply,” she said. “I wanted to be the voice of these students, because I was one of these students that uses public transportation so I know it’s not easy.”

Among her plans is contacting local bus companies to help improve the challenging situation.

Meledje’s next plan of action is to start a daycare center on campus.

“I wanted to fight for these students with children because we don’t have a daycare program here,” she said. “I think it’s really necessary.”

She also wants to set an example for overcoming shyness, which she had to do while gaining support from other students.

“It was a little bit challenging for me,” she said. “I was shy when I started, but it didn’t take long for it to become very simple.”

Meledje ​​​​said she realized she was drawing interest from other students.

“When it became easier to approach people, they would ask me what I wanted to do for the school and students here,” she said. “So many ideas (for the role) were coming to my mind. I would just explain all these ideas to them that I was thinking about for the position.”

Between studies, being active through other pursuits on campus, tutoring French to other students and her personal life, Meledje’​​s advice for other busy students is to keep an organized schedule. She admits that though organization is hard work, it is important to remain disciplined with it to keep one’s life together. She said she keeps herself motivated by anchoring herself in her drive to empower herself, women and other students.

“We all have a different story, yet we can all do the same thing,” she said. “Everyone has a voice to give.”

After obtaining her associate’s degree, Meledje ​​​​​​ plans to continue her studies, ideally at the University of Massachusetts, in international relations. She’s grateful for the position, stating she has met people in her community she never thought she would since beginning her term.

With her empowered attitude, Meledje ​​​​​​said she applies herself to her dreams, such as becoming president of her native Côte d’Ivoire.

“I am an African girl,” Meledje said. “If you make it out of the Ivory Coast and you go back home, and you’re recognized as a leader, not looked down on for being a woman, there’s a lot you can do with that.”

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