Scholarships change everything

Melody Weldon has a plan.

Weldon, a 2017 UAB graduate, is aiming for a career as a long-term care dietitian. She also has interests in medical missions and envisions herself “working with malnourished people around the globe,” she says. “I tell everyone that I meet that I love people, food, and science,” Weldon says. “It just made sense for me to become a dietitian. I have always had a desire for people to have all of their basic needs met before anything else.”

“Love, stability, security”

Weldon knows all about the importance of meeting needs. From the age of 10, she was raised at the Big Oak Ranch, a group home in Springville, Alabama, for children separated from their biological families. “I lived with a house mom and dad plus six other girls, and I consider all of them family,” says Weldon. “They provided me with love, stability, security and the life lessons and skills to grow and serve others.”

Even with that support, Weldon faced difficult odds. “Only 3 percent of former foster children graduate from college, and less than 1 percent finish a graduate degree,” says Weldon. She beat those odds in August 2017, when she graduated from UAB’s School of Health Professions with a Master of Science in Nutrition Sciences.

As an undergraduate at Jacksonville State University, Weldon lived in transition-housing at the Ranch. Her advisor at JSU, Debra Goodwin, is an alumna of UAB’s dietetic internship program who worked as a clinical dietitian at UAB Hospital.

“She highly recommended the program and pushed me to be a competitive internship candidate,” says Weldon. “UAB was my number-one choice.”

The costs of graduate education were daunting. “I was working along with a full-time internship and full-time class load and was very overwhelmed,” Weldon recalls. Then her internship director, Carleton Rivers, suggested she apply for the Rebecca L. Bradley Endowed Scholarship, which supports graduate students in Nutrition Sciences.

Shaping lives

The scholarship was established in 2005 by Rebecca “Becky” Bradley, an alumna and former director of UAB’s Dietetic Internship Program, with contributions from the many alumni Ms. Bradley impacted throughout her career.

In 2017, Weldon became the 10th recipient of the scholarship. With that help, “I was able to quit my part-time job so that I could focus on my education,” Weldon says. “Since receiving the scholarship, my grades and my ability to focus during the day have improved remarkably.”

School of Health Professions scholarship donors have the opportunity to interact with recipients at events such as the annual scholarship luncheon in Birmingham. Bradley, who attends the luncheon, went one step further this summer and traveled with Weldon to Big Oak Ranch to learn more about her upbringing and understand the impact the scholarship has had on her life.

“Big Oak Ranch laid the foundation for Melody to thrive, but her perseverance to succeed comes from within,” says Bradley. “Seeing her passion for nutrition, her desire to impact others through the field and commitment to serving as an example to other foster children is inspiring. It brings me joy to know that my financial support, and the support of others, is shaping the life of someone who will go on to do great things for themselves and others.”

Help shape a life through education: Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more about establishing a scholarship at UAB.