As we get closer to Thanksgiving, we wanted to give thanks to one of our partners, the Melville Family Foundation.
Randolph (Randy) and Rev. Dr. Lael C. Melville are the founders of the Melville Family Foundation. They both hold BA degrees from Princeton University, where they met during college and developed their passion for education. They have been happily married for more than 36 years and were blessed with three boys, who are now young men involved in the foundation. Rev. Dr. Lael C. Melville furthered her education by acquiring her doctorate in psychology from Rutgers University and a master’s from the Perkins Schools of Divinity at SMU. Dr. Melville also has post-doctoral training in marital and family therapy, has taught at the University of Pennsylvania as an associate professor, worked in the prison system of New Jersey as a school psychologist and is currently working on a second doctorate degree, a Doctorate of Divinity degree from SMU.
If that was not impressive enough, Dr. Melville also serves on the Uplift Education Board of Directors and is chair of the newly formed Dallas County School Engagement Committee, engaging and supporting all Dallas metroplex Uplift schools.
As a public charter school, our leadership structure varies slightly from a traditional ISD. We have a Chief Executive Officer instead of a Superintendent, and we have an appointed Board of Directors instead of an elected school board. The Board of Directors consists of community leaders who have a passion for education. Our Board members represent all areas of the metroplex and a variety of professions, but all are strong advocates for educational choice.
We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Melville to learn more about the Melville Family Foundation and their partnership with Uplift Education.
“We knew that brown and black children really needed some special love and attention because of the environments way too many find themselves in,” Melville said when asked about what started it all.
They were first introduced to Uplift through a connection Randy Melville had at Frito Lay. That eventually led to a meeting with Uplift Education CEO, Yasmin Bhatia. After visiting an Uplift school for a tour, they saw firsthand the commitment we have to college, both in our classrooms and through the visual representation of hanging college banners in the hallways, and the rest was history.
“It is amazing to know that there is a desire to work at that integrity level, to aspire to work at the level to say, we don’t have students, we have scholars. To see that all the schools are working toward the IB diploma… In Plano public schools, only a certain number of students work towards that. My husband and I came home, I was wondering if it was too good to be true,” Melville said.
Shortly after that, a wonderful partnership was born. Since then, the Melville Family Foundation has adopted five of our schools: Uplift Gradus Primary, Uplift Pinnacle Primary, Uplift White Rock Hills Primary and Uplift Luna Middle and High Schools. As part of this, they have established a mentoring program with Uplift Luna Middle School, where mentors have strategic pairings with middle school mentees to support them on their college and career journeys. This year they have over 70 potential mentees who have requested mentors from the Melville Family Foundation. They are in the process of responding to each request – through background screening and pairing. They also run the Elevate Literacy Program, where volunteers provide read-alouds virtually, but will soon resume the activities in-person. The purpose of the program is to foster a love for reading and help scholars find topics they are passionate about.
“We were looking for an opportunity to do Good, and if you take an ‘o’ out of Good, you will have God. In my heart, it is an opportunity to do God,” Melville said.
On top of this, the Melville Family Foundation partners with other community organizations to offer a variety of wrap-around supports to the Uplift scholars. In the past, they conducted food distribution events, in association with the North Texas Food Bank, at Uplift Pinnacle. At these events, they also had a S.N.A.P. representative there to assist families with food assistance applications. They also offer support to our Road to College and Career program, holiday food baskets for predetermined families, teacher, administration and staff encouragement through small gifts with accompanying notes, and they are in the process of developing internship opportunities for high school scholars.
Their current project, Uplift Saturdays, is a partnership with The MINT Foundation and Albertsons that distributes food every first and third Saturday, from now until February 20th, to families in need. The bi-weekly drive thru event takes place between 9AM – 11 AM at The MINT Foundation, 1604 Falcon Drive in De Soto, TX. For more information on Uplift Saturdays, click here. “We are leading nothing, but we do know how to come alongside and be a support for people who do know about leading and understand the needs of the communities that we serve in,” Melville said.
“You don’t have to look hungry, to be hungry. There is a way you can do it with dignity, even though we can’t touch lives right now, physically, we can touch somebody’s heart with kindness and generosity in just the way you give. That’s an opportunity I don’t want to miss out on.”
The Melville’s strive for their foundation to be different from others. Through the work she does on the Board of Directors as well as through the foundation itself, she wants to encourage and remind others “to own the change [they] want to see, be the change you want to see; help change a small space, to make it better.”