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University of Findlay alumna Jena Meloy can point toward many people and occurrences that led to her becoming who she is today. It was a near-tragedy when she was just thirteen, however, that showed her how resiliency and determination can guide a person.
Meloy’s father had been in a work-related accident, hit by a semi-truck while in a man-lift under a bridge on the turnpike, and was in a coma for six weeks. She said it is still the most difficult thing she’s ever gone through in life, but that it had a meaningful impact on her going forward. “I learned so much about my faith, family, and perseverance,” she said. “My family grew closer through that time.” While still having some lasting struggles because of the accident, Meloy said her dad is “a complete miracle,” and that watching her mom “navigate the immense struggles of instantly becoming a single-parent” was nothing short of amazing. “She fought so hard for my dad and for my brother and me that I feel like I owe so much of who I am to her,” she added.
Seeing her family’s example and having that support at a young age had more than a little to do with why she chose UF after graduating from high school in Wauseon, Ohio. “I felt like [UF] was close enough that I could go home if needed, but far enough that I couldn’t go home each day,” she said. Alongside the relative closeness to home, there were other reasons she chose Findlay. “My brother attended UF, so I knew the campus a bit,” she added. “I wanted to play soccer, and did for two seasons with [head soccer coach] Andy Smyth. “I learned so much from him! I knew UF had a good education program too, and my brother was involved with campus ministry.” In addition to soccer, she got involved with campus ministry, classes, and social life, one that included meeting her now-husband of twelve years, Shaun.
Meloy looks back on those busy, young years and experiences at UF as beneficial, not just for the education they provided, but for the intangibles that, at that time of her life, shaped her as much as anything into the woman she is today. “Some of the friends I met while in college have become lifelong friends, and continue to help me through their love, support, and prayers for my family and me,” she said. “I also believe Coach Smyth and numerous professors helped shape me and my teaching skills. The lessons I learned through their support, discipline and encouragement taught me so much about myself and being an educator.”
Now a second-grade teacher at Whittier Primary School in Findlay, Meloy is once again a student at UF, pursuing a master’s in Education to bolster her career. Being a teacher, according to her, is a mix of “rewarding, exhausting, fun, and sometimes difficult,” all of which, while at times challenging, she is grateful for. She explained that becoming a teacher was an instinctual career choice. “From an early age I knew I adored working with children. I just sort of had the instinct that it was what I should do,” she said. “When I got to college, the classes just seemed to fit my personality. Some of my own teachers I had growing up meant so much to me, and really spurred me on in the direction of teaching.”
Like most of her life experiences, Meloy said, navigating the demands of a job and attending graduate school has only added to her opportunities to learn and grow. There are now two additional people in her life that both inspire her as well as make her current time as a student a little different when compared to her previous stint: the Meloys have a son, eight year-old Cohen, and a daughter, five year-old Laurel. “They keep us busy, but add so much joy to our lives,” she said. “Having my own two kids and the demands of a full-time job has been a learning process too. Both of my children will be attending the school where I work this coming year, and that should make it both fun and interesting.”
So, as Meloy moves through the current phase of her life as a professional woman, married with children, it’s only natural that she reflects back on the time and people that guided her to this time of her life. “My parents encouraged me through everything,” she recalled. “After tough losses on the soccer or softball field, they were the first hugs I received after those games. When I scored a goal or made a good play, my mom’s whistle was heard above everything else. My dad supported me in all of my marching band competitions, even though a ‘band kid’ wasn’t his first choice. They were my biggest supporters.”
With her parents, her husband, children, and other family, her job, and her alma mater all rooting for her, it’s not hard to foresee what kind of meaningful life and productive career Meloy will continue to grow.