During an internship teaching second graders at an inner city school in Brooklyn, New York, Melissa Stone saw the achievement gap in students from low-income families widening and understood the urgency to close it.
”Being able to work as one of the only two Caucasian-American teachers in a minority majority school teaching second grade students was eye opening,” said Stone. “My internship was the first time I had been around so many people who cared deeply about urban education reform and student success. It left me invigorated and intent on pursuing education as a vehicle of change.”
Stone, who recently graduated magna cum laude from Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to serve as a teaching assistant in Greece. Stone will teach English and partake in theater at Athens College from September 2014 through June 2015.
In addition to psychology, Stone pursued a minor in theater from ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, having worked on Shakespeare classics throughout school. The theater enthusiast has worked on a diverse array of productions, including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “The Vagina Monologues” and “Hairspray.”
“The classes that I’ve taken in college have changed the way I look at art and its expression,” said Stone. “It was cool to see how theater can be used as a voice for the oppressed, and to open people to social change.”
Social change is a force close to Stone’s heart. As a former member of the Omega Phi Alpha community service sorority, she volunteered for service events for a childhood hunger organization. Outside of school, she has volunteered for organizations combating homelessness and sexual abuse, and been on mission trips to Costa Rica, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Nashville.
Using her interest and education in theater as a tool for change, Stone is currently employed as an acting coach for adults with disabilities at Detour Company Theatre in Tempe.
“It is true that the world knows nothing of its greatest people. The people I work with at Detour inspire me daily.”
As part of the Fulbright Scholarship, the recent ASU graduate will be teaching English to students while also participating in activities of the forensics and theater clubs. She will also be working side by side with the school counselor at Athens College.
“My Fulbright responsibilities haven’t been fully defined yet, so I’m trying to approach my upcoming time in Greece with an open mind,” she said. “Never has an opportunity fit my interests so perfectly. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to combine teaching, theater, counseling and traveling.
“I’m a restless person by nature. I’ve always wanted to do more and more, and enjoy spending my days doing fruitful things.”
When asked about her plans upon her return to the United States, Stone becomes introspective.
“I hope to pursue a master’s degree in psychology and counseling, but I know that my experience in Greece might set me on a completely different path, so I’m keeping my options open.”