Meliora program opens doors for Charlottesville teens

Teach for America alum Yuhuan Fu supports local

Meliora, a Charlottesville non-profit organization run by University students, is in the process of recruiting tutors to work with local high school students in need of college preparation and guidance.

The group is led by Executive Director Yuhuan Fu, a second-year Batten graduate student, and Director of Operations Laura Kelly, a fourth-year College student.

“Yuhuan and I started the program because we were both very interested in education and I, being in the Curry School of Education, had worked with Charlottesville High School in the past and had seen a need for something like this,” Kelly said. “I know that Charlottesville High School does its absolute best, but it’s always helpful to have more boots on the ground and people who can actually relate to the students more like peers.”

After participating in a fellowship with Teach for America, Fu had to create and implement a project, so he chose to create a counseling program. After the completion of the fellowship, he decided to continue it to have long-lasting impact.

“There are a lot of tutoring programs at U.Va., but not a whole lot of programs that extend beyond just math tutoring and writing and reading for high school students,” Fu said. “We do many of the things that tutoring doesn’t.”

In the program, each mentor is assigned to one high school student to help him or her achieve his or her collegiate goals. Fourth-year College student Jessica Rennert was a mentor in the program last year and said she plans to continue this year.

“I became involved because personally, I was very fortunate to grow up in a family that was very supportive of me and guided me and made sure I stayed on the right track to get me to where I am today,” Rennert said. “Unfortunately, a lot of kids in Charlottesville don’t have the same opportunity. … I wanted to be that support for somebody.”

The mentors help their students with a range of activities, including SAT prep, filling out college applications and giving them direction on community involvement and course selection.

Meliora was a small program last year, with only 12 mentors and four executive board members, but they are hoping to grow in coming years, Kelly said. The organization is currently beginning its second year of operation and is accepting applicants.

“We are looking for anybody who wants to make a difference in the life of a high schooler,” Kelly said. “We all got into U.Va. through a lot of different venues, some harder than others, and we are looking for people who can provide the same kind of guidance they got on the college process.”

The organization worked with Teach for America, a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving kids’ education across the country, to receive supplies last year. Because Meliora is not an official University organization it does not receive any University funding, Kelly said.

“We are going through the process [of becoming a CIO] this semester,” Kelly said. “We are working on getting more sustainable funding for our organization.”

Fu said Meliora means “the pursuit of the better” in Latin.

“We want to inspire students to always be reaching for the better, to believe that they can, and go to college, or follow their dreams whatever they may be,” he said.

Published September 5, 2014 in News

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