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by Naquela Kirk

Melissa Aragon, a senior completing studies in biology.
Photo by Naquela Kirk

Photo courtesy of Melissa Aragon For biology major Melissa Aragon, commencement at the University of Alabama at Birmingham marks the completion of the first of many goals she has for herself. Coming from the small city of Boaz, Melissa transferred to UAB from Snead State Community College with dreams of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in healthcare.

“I knew that UAB was the best place to be and that the best resources would be here,” said Melissa.

She doesn’t plan to stop at just undergraduate studies; next, Melissa wants to apply to medical school and become a pediatrician. When asked what interested her most about that occupation, she stated the commitment of pediatricians is different from other medical professions. “It’s really cool to be able to see a kid grow from when they’re born to 18 or 19, and all the changes that happen along the way.”

Melissa (front row, left) with members of the Off-Campus Council.
Photo courtesy of Melissa Aragon
She also has aspirations of creating a clinic that provides resources for children and their parents. “ My parents did not speak any English, so it was always a struggle going to the doctor. Being able to speak both English and Spanish, I would love to carry that into my profession as well as create a sense of welcome when going to the doctor.”

Melissa served as a work-study student in the Student Involvement and Leadership office, which helped her discover more student organizations, leading her to become a member of the Spanish and Latino Student Association (S.A.L.S.A.) and Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA). She was also a member of Sigma Lambda Gamma, a Latina-based multicultural sorority, and was active with TRiO Teach.

Melissa with her mother, Teresa Aragon.
Photo courtesy of Melissa Aragon

One of Melissa’s mottos is “leave things better than you found it,” and upon graduation, she will leave an organization that she helped co-create, the Latino Medical Student Association Pre-Health Undergraduate Society, for upcoming generations of Latine students pursuing health professions at UAB.

Being active on campus was a big part of her progress as a student, “Finding those organizations that benefit me but also allow me to reach out and help other students was very important.” She found meaning in working with other transfer students and became the co-president of the Transfer Student Organization. She helped those students learn about resources available through Off Campus Student and Family Engagement.

Melissa says it was her parents who inspired her to attend college. They came to the U.S. from Oaxaca, Mexico, to provide a better life for her and her siblings, who she also sees as inspirations as the youngest of seven. “I think in their own way, they’ve pushed me to be the best.”

Walking across the stage for commencement and seeing her family will be the realization of a major goal that she views as their achievement just as much as it is hers. “I want to make sure that I give that moment the importance that it deserves.”

With commencement approaching Friday, December 8, Melissa reflected on how she found inspiration in everything during her time at UAB and advice for students coming behind her. “Don’t be afraid to make friends and talk to advisors. I think it makes a big difference in your academic journey as well as your experience at the university.”

“Change everything for the better, and change it in a way that not only benefits you but benefits other people.”