Meet Fresh Air Alum: Melanie Boyce
Melanie Boyce, Fresh Air alum and volunteer mentor with our College Connections Program (CCP), shares her Fresh Air story and why she decided to volunteer as a mentor.
Melanie grew up in Far Rockaway, Brooklyn and started attending The Fresh Air Fund’s Camp Mariah at 11-years-old. Today, she is a diversity, equity and inclusion analyst at NBC Universal.
Q: Where do you live?
I am currently living in Far Rockaway with my family. We have been here together since quarantine started. I’m enjoying the time that I have with them.
Q: Do you remember who signed you up for The Fresh Air Fund?
I started at The Fresh Air Fund in 6th grade when I joined the Career Awareness Program – and went to Camp Mariah. My mom heard of the program from one of her coworkers and thought it would be good for me to go together with her coworker’s daughter.
Q: What are some of your favorite Camp Mariah memories?
I had a challenging time adjusting and connecting to other campers at first, but then I learned to really connect with other campers and make friends. During my final year at Camp Mariah, I remember taking a photography class and I really enjoyed learning about the process – from going into the darkroom, learning about the chemicals to developing pictures. I even won the photography prize at the end of the summer! That was a really great memory.
It took time to learn how to be myself with people who were always there to support me and really liked me for me. Embracing that was the highlight of my third year there.
The CAP program was really beneficial for me. Having career-based classes each summer taught me so much – learning how to write a resume, how to prepare for an interview and how you dress for an interview. Learning about careers at an early age really set me up for success later in life.
Q: What impact did the CAP have on your life?
The Fresh Air Fund also prepared me for high school internships and how to navigate the college application process. While I was in high school, I was able to apply for an internship through The Fresh Air Fund with ’Wichcraft – a sandwich company in New York City. With two other CAP students, we spent the whole summer learning about the restaurant business. It was an incredible opportunity, and I would not have had it without The Fresh Air Fund’s help. It was a summer youth employment opportunity – and it was my second job ever!
Q: Can you outline your career path and where you are currently working?
In college, I studied Geography and Sociology, and minored in dance. I then went on to work at a law firm for two years before deciding to go to graduate school. I attended the University of Oxford in England to continue studying Sociology. Then I went to the University of Cambridge to work as a research associate with my professor at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School. There I helped to research law firm diversity initiatives and programs – gender diversity within firms’ ranks. Currently, I am an analyst of diversity, equity and inclusion at NBC Universal.
Q: How long have you been volunteering at The Fresh Air Fund and what made you decide to come back?
I have been volunteering since college. I had volunteered regularly throughout the fall and spring terms – helping out with outreach calls. I also interned in the Camping Department and once I graduated from college I started volunteering as a tutor. Before I became a mentor, I felt like I needed a little bit more experience under my belt before I worked with high schoolers. Eventually, I joined CCP as a mentor last year.
I continued to volunteer at the Fresh Air Fund because it invested in me throughout my younger years – from summer experiences to providing financial support for all of my college applications. I knew that no matter what happened I would always give back in any way I could – and I knew that volunteering was the best way for me to do that.
Q: How has the transition from in-person to virtual been?
It was interesting to be on the other side – I am aware of whether the students are engaging or not. For me, I just want to make sure that they are doing all right. It is so easy to see how they are doing when we can meet in the office and I really took that for granted. So, I think right now, making sure they know they have a safe space here with me and with my fellow mentors is essential. A space to not only discuss their concerns about college, but also, like anything else – from the pandemic to all the political discussions. The opportunity to have the two hours on Wednesdays as a safe space, is really important to me.
Q: What are some of your favorite moments with your students?
My favorite sessions are the ones where we are learning something, but also laughing along the way. Those moments are the ones that I remember most. I hope that those are the ones they also remember and that they take a lot from. It is just a lot of fun.
Q: What have you learned from your students?
When I was in high school, we didn’t have cell phones and social media was not as big as it is now. I continue to learn from the students about social media and how it informs a lot of their social life – it is really fascinating to me.
I don’t know if I would’ve been able to handle having social media at that age. I think they are doing a really great job of making sure that they prioritize their schoolwork while staying pretty engaged with their peers.
Q: What are three words that come to mind when you think about The Fresh Air Fund and why?
I would say open – students can bring their interests to the table and know that there are people that care about them enough to go the extra mile and bring opportunities to them.
Lastly, fun because it’s fun to be able to meet with young people every week. It is just a lot of fun to be myself and truly engage with other people who are like minded.
Are you a Fresh Air alum? How has The Fresh Air Fund changed your life? Visit FreshAir.or/Alum to share your story and sign up for alumni updates.